Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Melilotus alba

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melilotus alba


The name Melilotus comes from Gr. meli, honey, and lotos, clover, the plants being great favourites of the bees.


Traditional name

white sweetclover
   white melilot

Used parts

Flowering tops


Plantae; Spermatophyta, Angiospermae - Flowering Plants; Dicotyledonae; Rosiflorae / Rosidae; Fabales; Leguminosae / Fabaceae / Papilionaceae - Legume Family / Pea Family


Original proving

Proved by Bowen, in 1851 and 1866

Description of the substance

Taxonomic Description:

White sweetclover is a annual or biennial forb. It ha an erect growth form (0.5-3.5 m tall) and grows from a long taproot. Stems are highly branched, coarse, and glabrous to lightly pubescent. Leaves are alternate and pinnately trifoliolate. Leaflets are ovate, obovate, or oblong (1-4 cm long). Margins are entire except for the dentate, truncate tip of each leaflet. Each leaflet is glabrous on the upper surface and has an appressed pubescence on the lower surface. Stipules are 7-10 mm long. Stipules of the lower leaves have one to two teeth at the base. Flowers are in numerous spicate racemes (4-28 cm long). Each raceme has 40 to 120 flowers. The calyx is tubular (4-5 mm long) and has subequal, deltoid teeth. Flowers are white (4-5 mm long) and papilionaceous. The wings and standard petals of the corolla are about equal (4-5 mm long). The fruiting body is a dark brown to black pod or legume (2.5-5 mm long, 2-2.5 mm wide, and 1.5-2 mm thick). It is ovate, glabrous, and has reticular veins. The legume usually contains one seed (occasionally two or three). Seeds are oval (2-2.5 mm long and 1.5 mm wide) and yellow to greenish-yellow.
Yellow sweetclover [Melilotus officinalis (L.) Pall.] is essentially indistinguishable from white sweetclover with the exception of having a yellow flower that is 4.5-7 mm long, and a light brown legume that is cross veined or irregularly rugose. Even though yellow sweetclover had a lower significance of impact at Pipestone National Monument (PIPE) (48 vs. 51 for white sweetclover), these two species are similar in ecology, biology, and control in prairie. Both sweetclovers will be discussed as one. Exceptions will be noted. Worldwide, numerous varieties, ecotypes, and forms of these two species are recognized. Biology/Ecology:
White sweetclover is native to Eurasia. It has become naturalized elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, Australia, and some parts of South America. White sweetclover is more widely distributed than yellow sweetclover. Both species, especially white sweetclover, have been planted as cash crops in Russia, Germany, Poland, Argentina, United States, and Canada. They are legumes and have the potential to fix nitrogen to improve the soil. White sweetclover was first introduced into North America in 1664 as a forage crop. Yellow sweetclover was first reported in North America in 1739
Sweetclovers have a broad habitat range and are drought and cold tolerant. However, neither species can tolerate prolonged flooding. They are commonly found growing on calcarious soils and are most abundant in rich loams and clay loams having a pH of 6.5 or higher. Their deep taproots allow them to grow in poorer sands and gravels. Yellow sweetclover is slightly more salt tolerant than white sweetclover, and both grow well on alkaline soils. Both species grow in a wide diversity of plant communities ranging from intensive agricultural lands to roadsides and prairies. Neither species is tolerant of dense shade, but both will tolerate partial shade.
Sweetclovers are obligate biennials. During the first season, the seeds germinate from March through April. Germination is enhanced by day temperatures <15°C. Although most of the seeds germinate in the spring, some germination will continue through the summer and into the fall. After the seedlings have become well established, the above ground growth rate slows, and underground development accelerates. In early to mid-September, underground development is primarily taproot growth. The taproot may reach lengths of 120 cm. Adventitious roots also form, often reaching 30-40 cm in length. As the roots begin to develop, crown buds develop near the ground level. Contractile roots develop in the fall to pull the crown below ground level to prevent winter kill.
At the beginning of the second growing season, vegetative shoots initiate elongation and rapidly elongate until early summer. Following elongation, sweetclovers flower and set seed. Flowering is influenced by both daylength and temperature. Continuous daylengths of 17 hours have been shown to induce flowering in the first growing season. Under short daylengths, it has been shown that crown buds will remain dormant and may not be stimulated by mowing. Low temperatures retard flowering and often result in increased below ground production. Yellow sweetclover usually flowers in June or July, and white sweetclover flowers about a week later than yellow sweetclover. Although some self-pollination occurs, bees, wasps, and flies which are the primary pollinators. Legumes (pods) develop from late June through August and may remain over winter on the plant. Each pod will typically have one seed, but may contain up to three seeds. It has been estimated that one plant will produce between 14,000 and 350,000 seeds. Seeds are distributed short distances by the wind, and runoff water may move the seeds greater distances. Most of the seeds remain viable in the soil for 14 to 20 years, and some stored seed has remained viable for over 80 years.


Annual forms of white sweetclover exist, but the plant is primarily
biennial.  First-year plants are comprised entirely of vegetative growth
(usually a single stem) and overwinter as buds on the caudex.
Second-year plants have a strongly developed taproot which may exceed 50
inches (120 cm) in depth, and 1 to 10 upright or ascending flowering
stems from 3 to 8.5 feet in height [31,33].  The inflorescence is a
raceme with 40 to 80 white flowers.  The fruit is a one-seeded pod.

   Hemicryptophyte (biennial form)
   Therophyte (annual form
White sweetclover is a good seed producer.  Seed production estimates of
14,000 to 350,000 seeds per plant have been reported.  Large plants
growing in the open in Ontario produced between 200,000 and 350,000
seeds each.  The fruits are shed in the fall, and are dispersed by
gravity, strong winds, and water.  The seeds float, and thus rain wash
and stream flow may be an important means of dispersal [34].  A large
percentage of the seeds have a hard seed coat and can remain viable in
the soil for more than 20 years [31].  Natural scarification occurs
through fluctuating freezing and thawing temperatures or by heat from a
fire [15].  New seedlings are found almost any month during the growing
season, but only spring-emerged seedlings survive the winter [17,34].

Vegetative reproduction:  Vegetative reproduction does not occur
naturally.  If second-year plants are cut, new growth must come from
buds on the stems rather than the caudex [31].

White sweetclover is shade intolerant and grows in a wide variety of
open habitats but is most common along roads and railways, and in
prairies, arid rangelands, fields, and waste places [16,34].  Its
associates are too numerous to list, but it often grows with yellow
sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis) in the West [1].  It is not tolerant
of continuous flooding but occasionally grows on open, gravelly
riverbanks that experience brief spring flooding.  White sweetclover
grows on a wide range of soil types and textures from clay to dune sand
and river gravels [34].  It is most commonly found on calcareous soils.
It grows poorly on acid soils [31,34].  It requires sufficient moisture
for establishment but is thereafter very drought tolerant [34].

White sweetclover is an early colonizer of disturbed sites.  It is
common on strip-mined lands in the central and eastern United States
[9,16].  Turkington [34] reported that it may be eliminated from an area
within 2 years if the ground surface is covered by perennial species
because seedlings cannot survive in a perennial sward.  Other
researchers have detailed its persistence in many native and established
tallgrass prairies; however, its abundance in these communities was
probably due to periodic disturbance (fire) [15,18].  It was found in
oldfields in Ohio but disappeared from sites when tree cover became
continuous [26].

First-year plants:  Nearly all energy in the early part of the growing
season is put into top-growth.  In late summer, however, the tops grow
very little, while the roots grow dramatically.  This is the "critical
growth period" when plants allocate most energy to root growth.  
Second-year flowering shoots become noticeable as root crown buds about
the time rapid root growth begins.  First-year shoots are killed by
freezing temperatures in the fall or winter.

Second-year plants:  In the spring of the second year, several shoots
arise from the root crown and elongate rapidly.  By midsummer, each
shoot bears many flowers, and flowering may continue until early fall.
White sweetclover seeds have hard, impermeable seed coats, and may
remain dormant in soil seed banks for years.  The heat from a fire
breaks the seed coat, allowing the seed to germinate.  Where soil-stored
seed is present, burning is stimulatory, resulting in abundant seed
germination and seedling establishment [15,18,23].

Second-year plants present as buds on the caudex may survive
dormant-season burns, as they are located about 2 inches (5 cm) below
the ground surface [34].  On the Curtis Prairie in Wisconsin,
second-year white sweetclover was abundant in the spring following
dormant season fall burns [18].  Actively growing second-year plants,
however, are easily killed by fire.

The scientific name of white sweetclover is variously reported

     Melilotus alba Ders. [32]
     Melilotus alba Medicus [11,38]
     Melilotus alba Medikus [1]    
     Melilotus albus Ders. ex Lam. [39]

Without regard to authority, Melilotus alba is the most commonly
used binomial.

European and Asian material exhibits much variation and may be divided
into several subspecies.  Plants in North America, however, probably
descended from relatively few introductions and exhibit much less
variation.  There are no recognized subspecies or varieties in North


White sweetclover is native to Europe and western Asia.  It was probably
introduced into North America by early settlers and was first recorded
in the United States in 1739 [32].  Its widespread use as bee pasture,
in agriculture, and for soil stabilization hastened its spread across
North America.  Today it is found in Alaska, Hawaii, every Canadian
province and territory, and in all of the contiguous United States [34].

Seeded white sweetclover generally makes rapid growth, quickly providing
vegetative cover on disturbed areas.  Its chief rehabilitation use is
for erosion control and revegetation of mined lands [14,37].  It grows
well on calcareous and alkaline mine spoils but is not recommended for
use on acidic spoils [14,30].  It is especially important as a
preparatory crop on mined lands because it incorporates large amounts of
nitrogen and organic matter into the soil, which is made available to
succeeding plants [31,33].  Scarified seed is generally sown in the fall
in southern latitudes and in the early spring in northern latitudes.
White sweetclover planting information has been reported in detail