Melilotus alba (White Sweet Clover)
|Also known as:|
|Life cycle:||annual, biennial|
|Habitat:||sun; open fields, roadsides, woodland edges, disturbed soil|
|Bloom season:||June - October|
|Plant height:||2 to 8 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are clustered in spike-like racemes up to 8 inches long on branching stems, arising from leaf axils, and at the top of the plant. Individual flowers are about ¼ inch long, with 5 parts in a typical shape for a member of the Pea family. Large plants can take on a bushy appearance with numerous clusters of white flowers. Small plants may have only a few sparsely arranged branches.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are compound in groups of 3 on a stalk about 1 inch long. Leaflets are ½ to 1 inch long, ¼ to ½ inch across, with small teeth around the edges, a rounded or flattened tip and short slender stalk. The shape can be oval or elliptical, or tapering to a narrow base with the widest point in the tip half of the leaflet. The color may be somewhat blue-green or gray-green. Stems are smooth and may be ridged or grooved, mostly hairless and green or sometimes tinged red.
Like the closely related Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalis), White Sweet Clover was brought to North America as a forage crop and quickly escaped cultivation. It invades roadsides, fields and disturbed soil but also encroaches on high grade habitat and can have explosive growth following fire disturbance. Yellow Sweet Clover starts blooming a couple weeks earlier than White and is a slightly smaller plant, but except for the flower color and some other more subtle differences is otherwise nearly identical. White Sweet Clover also goes by Latin name Melilotus albus.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at various locations in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at various locations around Minnesota.
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