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   The genus "Melilotus" is found in the Mediterranean and southwest Asian areas, but it is now firmly entrenched in the U.S., often as a noxious weed.  The name is a combination of the Greek "meli",  ("honey") and "Lotus" (an ancient Greek name applied to many plants).
Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis.  Synonym: Melilotus albus. (White Sweet Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Roadsides, fields, disturbed areas.  Spring, summer.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, August 1, 2005.

White-flowering Melilotus is not as common as yellow-flowering, but it can appear over wide areas and occasionally in large patches.  Its structure and growth habits are the same as M. officinalis and it is, in fact, now considered by most botanists to be a variant of M. officinalis

Friederich Medikus named this species Melilotus albus in 1787.  Thomas Nuttall named it Melilotus officinalis variety alba in 1818.

Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis.  Synonym: Melilotus albus. (White Sweet Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Roadsides, fields, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, August 1, 2005.

Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis.  Synonym: Melilotus albus. (White Sweet Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Roadsides, fields, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Near Yellowjacket Canyon, August 1, 2005.

Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis (Yellow Sweet Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Roadsides, fields, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Near Yellow Jacket Canyon, June 14, 2004.

Melilotus officinalis, a non-native species being considered for noxious weed classification in Colorado, is one of our most common plants.  It was frequently used to stabilize bare slopes, and it was also widely planted throughout the U.S. by bee keepers; it has since spread to all parts of the foothills and mountains of our area.  It is common in meadows, driveways, lawns, and along trails in many areas of the United States.

Philip Miller named this genus in 1754 and Pallas named this species Melilotus officinalis in 1776 altering Linnaeus' Trifolium melilotus-officinalis of 1753.

Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis (Yellow Sweet Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Roadsides, fields, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Near Yellow Jacket Canyon, June 14, 2004.

Melilotus officinalis
Melilotus officinalis (Yellow Sweet Clover)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert, foothills, montane. Roadsides, fields, disturbed areas. Spring, summer.
Near Yellow Jacket Canyon, June 14, 2004.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Melilotus officinalis