White Sweet Clover
Synonyms of Melilotus albus (20) (Updated on 5-17-21 from Plants of the World Online): Medicago alba E.H.L.Krause, Melilotus albus Desr., Melilotus albus f. prolifer Dore, Melilotus angulatus Trautv., Melilotus argutus Rchb., Melilotus giganteus Trautv., Melilotus kotschyi O.E.Schulz, Melilotus leucanthus W.D.J.Koch ex DC., Melilotus melanospermus Besser ex Ser., Melilotus officinalis subsp. albus (Medik.) H.Ohashi & Tateishi, Melilotus rugulosus Trautv., Melilotus strictus Trautv., Melilotus tenellus Wallr., Melilotus urbanii O.E.Schulz, Melilotus vulgaris Willd., Sertula alba (Medik.) Kuntze, Trifolium album (Medik.) Loisel., Trifolium melilotus Georgi, Trifolium vulgare Gueldenst. ex Ledeb., Trigonella alba (Medik.) Coulot & Rabaute
Melilotus albus Medick. is the correct and accepted scientific name for White Sweet Clover. It was named and described as such by Friedrich Kasimir Medikus in Vorlesungen der Churpfälzischen Physicalisch in 1787.
Some sites, including the USDA Plants Database, may say Melilotus albus is a synonym of Melilotus officinalis. Normally, Melilotus albus is the White Sweet Clover while Melilotus officinalis is the Yellow Sweet Clover. Plants of the World Online by Kew lists both species as accepted. You may also see the name Melilotus officinalis subsp. albus for the White Sweet Clover which POWO lists as a synonym of Melilotus albus.
The genus, Melilotus (L.) Mill., was named and described as such by Philip Miller in The Gardeners Dictionary in 1754. It was first listed as Trifolium sect. Melilotus by Carl von Linnaeus in the second edition of the first volume of Species Plantarum in 1753.
Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 23 species in the Melilotus genus (as of 5-17-21 when I last updated this page). It is a member of the plant family Fabaceae with 767 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made by POWO.
The above distribution map for Melilotus albus from Plants of the World Online apparently hasn’t been updated for a while. Areas in green are where the species is native, purple where introduced, and orange where it is doubtful. POWO gets some of their maps for the United States and Canada from Flora of North America for families recognized on that site. When I wrote this page FNA had not yet included genera from the plant family Fabaceae. The editor of POWO said they would start using maps from the USDA Plants Database for families not included on FNA later in 2021.
The distribution map above for Melilotus officinalis is from the USDA Plants Database for the United States and Canada. The USDA lists Melilotus albus as a synonym of Melilotus officinalis but POWO lists both species as accepted. Melilotus albus is normally considered the White Sweet Clover while Melilotus officinalis is the Yellow Sweet Clover.
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A BETTER POSITIVE ID.
I have been back on the family farm in West-Central Missouri since 2013 and became more interested in wildflower ID. I had never noticed any White Sweet Clover on the farm until August 2 in 2012. I was walking along the fence in the front pasture and noticed a group of mostly dead stems with a few clusters of white flowers. I took photos and uploaded them on iNaturalist and found out they were Melilotus albus, White Sweet Clover. I was going to keep an eye on them in 2020 so I could get better photos of the plant stems and leaves but that didn’t happen. I became fairly busy and forgot all about them… HOPEFULLY, I can do better in 2021.
I apologize for not writing descriptions at the moment, but I have A LOT of wildflower pages to make and publish before I start getting too busy. I update this site and add new pages over the winter but I didn’t get finished. SO, I decided to just make the page with photos and links to other sites for better plant ID. I will be taking more photos over the summer and posting but I will also be working on these pages as I have time.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. My farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 100 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
WORLD FLORA ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES
PFAF(PLANTS FOR A FUTURE)
FRIENDS OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates (and if they update their sources or even read what they say). Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂