Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Melilotus officinalis (L.) Lam.; old Melilotus alba Medikus / Melilotus albus Medik.

Common name(s): sweetclover, sweet-clover, white sweetclover, yellow sweetclover, honey-clover, Bokhara clover, ribbed melilot, field melilot, white melilot

Link(s): USDA PLANTS Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


-annual or biennial


-can reach a height of 5 feet

-Leaves have:

  • 3 leaflets
  • 8/38 mm long
  • 3-16 mm wide
  • toothed
  • can be hairy, more commonly smooth

-flower stalks produce 20-65 flowers

-white and yellow flowered plants were formerly considered separate species, and some sources still separate (e.g. see Go Botany webpage for M. albus, and Flora Nova Angliae below)

-considered invasive in some areas



-riparian areas


-medium textured sandy – clay soils

-does not tolerate acidic soils

-drought tolerant


-seedlings can tolerate 10-14 days of flooding

-livestock can be susceptible to sweetclover bleeding disease

-provides food and cover for birds and mammals

-stems and leaves are eaten by elk, deer, and antelope

-known to improve sage grouse habitat

-attracts bees and butterflies


-can be reduced by fall mowing and grazing

-decreased by sweetclover weevil

-more difficult to control in their second year of growth

Natural History:

-introduced from Europe in the 1700s



Haines, A., Farnsworth, E., Morrison, G., & New England Wild Flower Society. (2011). New England Wildflower Society’s Flora Novae Angliae: A manual for the identification of native and naturalized higher vascular plants of New England. Framingham, MA: New England Wild Flower Society. p. 591.

Ogle, D., St, John, L., Tilley, D. 2008. Plant Guide for yellow sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis (L.) Lam. And white sweetclover (M. alba Medik.  USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Idaho Plant Materials Center, Aberdeen, ID.  83210