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White sweet clover (Melilotus albus)

White sweet clover Synonyms: Melilotus alba, Melilotus albus var. annuus, Melilotus leucanthus, Melilotus officinalis subsp. albus

Common Names: Honey-clover, white melilot

Description: This plant is capable of nitrogen fixation.

Habit: Herbaceous annual or biennial that can grow up to 1.5 m (5 ft) tall; deep taproot; extensive lateral roots.

Leaves: Compound, alternate, clover leaves with three finely toothed leaflets.

Stems: Upright; many-branched; smooth; often hollow; leafy stems that may be spreading near the base giving the plant a bushy appearance.

Flowers: Numerous, white in color, pea-like, fragrant, crowded onto elongated stems; bloom May through September.

Fruit and seeds: Seed pod, tiny, wrinkled, contains 1-2 small, tough seeds; seeds may remain viable for up to thirty years, seed germination stimulated by burning.

Habitat: Native to Eurasia. Found in open, dry, disturbed sites such as roadsides and old fields; also found in calcareous soils of sand dunes and prairies. Shade intolerant; will tolerate nutrient poor soils.

Reproduction: By prolific seed production; up to 350,000 seeds per plant.

Similar species: Resembles non-native yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) which has yellow rather than white flowers; seedlings may also resemble alfalfa (Medicago spp.), which has downy hairs on the leaf underside.

Monitoring and rapid response: Monitor open, sunny sites; sweet white clover is most easily identified in June and July, while in bloom. For small infestations, pull first year plants in fall, after the root-crown buds have developed; pull second year plants before flowering. Flowering plants should be removed and disposed of so that seed does not develop. Poorly planned prescribed fire will increase infestations; multiple hot burns needed, timing critical, dependent on population age structure. A single burn may also be combined with herbicide application.

Credits: The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) has partnered with MISIN to provide the information in this fact sheet. Species images and/or information were used with permission from "A Field Identification Guide to Invasive Plants in Michigan's Natural Communities" and "A Field Guide to Invasive Plants of Aquatic and Wetland Habitats for Michigan.

Common Name:

White sweet clover

Scientific Name:

Melilotus albus




Annual, Biennial, Perennial



USDA Symbol: