yellow sweet clover

(Melilotus officinalis)

Conservation Status
yellow sweet clover
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

Yellow sweet clover is listed as an invasive terrestrial plant by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. However, it is not currently regulated in Minnesota.

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Yellow sweet clover is a 1 to 6 tall, erect, freely branching, biennial forb rising on many stems from a strong taproot. The stems are branching, light green, and hairless. The taller plants tend to be bushy, the shorter plants lanky. In the first year they are small and do not flower. In the second year they are taller, bushy, and produce many flower clusters.

The compound leaves are alternate, hairless and divided into three leaflets.The leaflets are oblanceolate or obovate, ½ to 1 long and up to ¼ wide. They are plain green, finely toothed along the middle and upper margins, the teeth pointed outward rather than forward. The middle leaflet is on a distinct stalk.

The inflorescence is many tall, spike-like clusters of stalked flowers. The clusters are on elongated stems produced in the axils of the middle and upper leaves. The flowering stems are 2 to 6 long. Dozens of small flowers are crowded along the top two thirds of the stem.

The flowers are to long and are attached to the stem with a minute stalk. They droop down but ascend at the tip.




1 to 6


Flower Color




Similar Species


White sweet clover (Melilotus albus) has white flowers. It is usually a little taller than yellow sweet clover. The foliage is grayish-green, not plain green. It blooms 2 to 3 weeks later than yellow sweet clover.


Dry. Open, upland areas, prairies, disturbed sites, roadsides. Full sun or partial shade, never full shade.




Late May to September


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



4, 5, 7, 22, 28, 29, 30.




Native to Asia, Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. Introduced and naturalized in North America.





  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Fabales (legumes, milkworts, and allies)  


Fabaceae (legumes)  
  Subfamily Faboideae  


  Genus Melilotus (melilots and sweetclovers)  

Some sources, including BONAP and USDA PLANTS, consider white sweet clover (Melilotus alba) and yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) the same species with differently colored flowers. It that is the case, then white sweet clover should be treated as Melilotus officinalis ssp. alba. BONAP lists Melilotus officinalis but not Melilotus alba. It does not list subspecies or varieties of any plants. USDA PLANTS curiously lists just sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis), with no subspecies, and with Melilotus alba as a synonym. Most sources treat white and yellow sweet clovers as separate species.


Subordinate Taxa






Melilotus albus

Melilotus albus var. annuus

Melilotus graveolens

Melilotus officinalis f. suaveolens

Melilotus suaveolens

Trifolium officinale


Common Names


field melilot

ribbed melilot

yellow melilot

yellow sweet clover

yellow sweetclover
















Compound leaf

A leaf that is divided into leaflets, each leaflet having the general appearance of a leaf, with all leaflets attached to a single leaf stem.



Reverse lanceolate; much longer than wide, thickest toward the tip, and gradually tapering toward the base.



Reverse egg-shaped, with the attachment at the narrower end.

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    yellow sweet clover   yellow sweet clover  


    yellow sweet clover      



  Melilotus officinalis
Matt Lavin
  Melilotus officinalis  

Introduced taprooted biennial herb, stems often to 1 m tall or taller, leaflet margins serrate at least distally, flowers with yellow petals, pods inconspiuous, with 1 seed, common along roadsides, in fields, grasslands, and rangeland where overgrazed or intentionally seeded, does well where disturbance is regular, although seedlings, but not adults, are common in well managed sagebrush steppe.




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Other Videos
  Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus Officinalis) - 2012-06-25

Published on Jun 27, 2012

De citroengele honingklaver (Melilotus officinalis), ook vaak Akkerhoningklaver genaamd, is een tweejarige- of meerjarige plant uit de vlinderbloemenfamilie (Leguminosae).

  Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus Officinalis) - 2012-06-11

Published on Jun 12, 2012

Melilotus officinalis, known as the yellow sweet clover, yellow melilot, ribbed melilot or common melilot is a species of legume.

De citroengele honingklaver (Melilotus officinalis), ook vaak Akkerhoningklaver genaamd, is een tweejarige- of meerjarige plant uit de vlinderbloemenfamilie (Leguminosae).

  Environmental Laboratory - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Published on Feb 15, 2013

Melilotus officinalis - Yellow Sweetclover

  Sweetclover 040412
Marco Peña

Published on Apr 2, 2012

Agricultural Systems Management Degree in Yuma

Presentation by: Tawnie Guerrero


PLS 300 Weed Science Class




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Afton State Park

Anna Gronseth Prairie

Antelope Valley SNA

Baker Park Reserve

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park

Big Stone Lake State Park

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Blazing Star Prairie

Blazing Star Prairie Addition Preserve, South Unit

Blue Mounds State Park

Bonanza Prairie SNA

Bunker Hills Regional Park

Cambria WMA

Camden State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Park Reserve

Cedar Rock SNA

Cherry Grove Blind Valley SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Clifton E. French Regional Park

Clinton Prairie SNA

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Crosby Farm Regional Park

Crow-Hassan Park Reserve

Des Moines River SNA

Falls Creek SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Felton WMA

Fort Ridgely State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Franconia Bluffs SNA

Frenchman’s Bluff SNA

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Greenwater Lake SNA

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Hardscrabble Woods / MG Tusler Sanctuary

Hastings Sand Coulee SNA

Hayes Lake State Park

Hemlock Ravine SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Iron Springs Bog SNA

Itasca State Park

Jensen Memorial WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Elmo Park Reserve

Lake Louise State Park

Lake Maria State Park

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve

Leif Mountain

Maplewood State Park

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Mary Schmidt Crawford Woods SNA

McKnight Prairie

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Minneopa State Park

Minnesota Valley NWR, Louisville Swamp Unit

Minnesota Valley NWR, Rapids Lake Unit

Morton Outcrops SNA

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, South Unit

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Rengstorf Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Oronoco Prairie SNA

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Oxbow Park & Zollman Zoo

P.N. and G.M. Nelson Wildlife Sanctuary

Pankratz Memorial Prairie, North Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Pembina Trail Unit

Phelps Lake WMA

Pilot Knob

Pine Bend Bluffs SNA

Prairie Coteau SNA

Prairie Creek WMA, Koester Prairie Unit

Prairie Smoke Dunes SNA

Racine Prairie SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake Savanna SNA

River Terrace Prairie SNA

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

St. Croix Savanna SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Schaefer Prairie

Sedan Brook Prairie SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Sheepberry Fen

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Spring Lake Park Reserve

Staffanson Prairie

Strandness Prairie

Town Hall Prairie

Tribute WMA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Tympanuchus Prairie

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion River WMA

Wahpeton Prairie WMA

Western Prairie SNA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

William O’Brien State Park

Wood-Rill SNA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zimmerman Prairie







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