Skip to main content
This genus is accepted, and its native range is Temp. Eurasia to Indo-China, Canary Islands to Egypt and S. Africa.
Melilotus officinalis

[LOWO]

Legumes of the World. Edited by G. Lewis, B. Schrire, B. MacKinder & M. Lock. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. (2005)

Note

Trifolieae forms a morphologically distinctive tribe, although the position of both Ononis and Parochetus has been questioned (see below). In total there are 6 genera and c. 485 species, of which more than half belong to Trifolium (Fig. 56). The distribution of the tribe is centred in the N temperate regions of the Old World, particularly in areas of winter rainfall. Trifolium itself has spread into the tropics on mountains, where there has been considerable diversification, particularly in Ethiopia. It is also the only genus of the tribe to occur naturally in the New World. Parochetus occurs only on palaeotropical mountains. The importance of some genera as fodder legumes, particularly Trifolium and Medicago, has led to their introduction to many parts of the world.

Ononis was placed in a tribe of its own, Ononideae, by Hutchinson (1964) and this has been followed by some (e.g., Yakovlev et al., 1996). The distinctness of Parochetus (and of Ononis) was emphasised by Small & Jomphe (1989), and Chaudhary & Sanjappa (1998a) have placed Parochetus in its own subtribe Parochetinae.

Within the core of Trifolieae, there are some problems in generic delimitation, particularly between Trigonella, Medicago and Melilotus, with some (e.g., Yakovlev et al., 1996) recognising the intermediate genus Melilotoides. Distinctive species here placed in Medicago have been variously segregated as Radiata (Pseudomelissitus), Rhodusia, Crimea, Kamiella and Factorovskya. This treatment follows Small (1987) and Small et al. (1987) in recognising an expanded Medicago including all those species with explosively tripping flowers. In Trifolium, on the other hand, the generic boundaries are reasonably clear, but the unit can be treated either as a large genus with several well-defined sections (the course followed here), or as the separate genera Amoria, Chrysaspis, Lupinaster and Trifolium sens. strict. (see below).

Trifolieae forms part of the ‘temperate epulvinate series’ of Polhill (1981a). In the same volume Heyn (1981) was unable to suggest a clear relationship to any other tribe. The morphological cladistic analysis of the whole family by Chappill (1995) placed Trifolieae next to Cicer. Kupicha (1977) had earlier suggested that Cicer is closest to Trifolieae, with the adnation of the stipules to the petiole in Trifolieae being the only differential character; the tribes Cicereae and Trifolieae also share the characters of long-stalked glandular hairs and serrate leaflets with craspedodromous venation. Doyle (1995) placed Trifolieae, along with Carmichaelieae, Cicereae, Galegeae, Hedysareae, Fabeae and some Millettieae in a group characterised by the loss of the inverted repeat (IR) (Liston, 1995). Endo & Ohashi (1997) placed Trifolieae as sister to the Cicereae and Fabeae (as Vicieae) in a cladistic analysis based on a range of non-molecular characters. Wojciechowski et al. (2000) distinguish a Vicioid clade that includes Trifolieae, Cicereae and Fabeae (as Vicieae), as well as Galega. Within this clade, Parochetus is basally branching to the rest of the taxa, and Galega plus Cicereae form a sister group to a paraphyletic Trifolieae, with Fabeae emerging as sister to Trifolium. In a clade sister to Trifolium and Fabeae, Wojciechowski et al. (2000) and Steele & Wojciechowski (2003) place Ononis basally branching to the sister monophyletic clades Medicago, and Melilotus-Trigonella (Fig. 56). The latter three genera comprise tribe Trigonelleae of Schulz (1901).

Given that molecular phylogenies do not support a monophyletic Trifolieae in its current form, further study may reinforce the pattern of relationships suggested so far by these analyses. A tribe Trigonelleae could be recognised including the genus Ononis, and tribe Trifolieae would then only include the genus Trifolium, sister to tribe Fabeae. The Trifolieae in its broader paraphyletic sense is maintained here pending further study. The ‘supertree’ of Wojciechowski et al. (2001) is not supportive of the segregate genera of Trifolium; more thorough sampling of Trifolium and other large genera is desirable before any final conclusions can be drawn.

See under Trigonella for notes on generic delimitation
Habit
Herbs
Ecology
Mediterranean and warm temperate grassland and shrubland
Distribution
temperate Europe, Mediterranean and subtropical Asia and N Africa

[FZ]

Leguminosae, various authors. Flora Zambesiaca 3:7. 2003

Morphology General Habit
Annual or biennial herbs.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate; leaflets toothed, the nerves ending in teeth; stipules basally adnate to the petiole.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers small, yellow or white, in extended pedunculate axillary racemes, lacking an explosively tripping pollination mechanism; bracts minute or absent; bracteoles absent.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx lobes subequal, ± as long as the tube.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals not adnate to the stamens, glabrous, deciduous; standard subsessile, with 3 major basal veins; wings extended at the upper proximal corner into a small auricle; keel and wings not or loosely interlocked by a wing spur in a keel pocket (both spur and pocket not or weakly developed).
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens Anthers
Anther sheath straight at the apex; free portions of filaments mostly thin; vexillary filament free; anthers uniform, versatile.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Pistil
Ovary sessile or stipitate, few-ovuled; style long, incurved above, glabrous; stigma minute, terminal, with short papillae on the apex.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pod small, subglobose or ovoid, falling off with the calyx and pedicel, indehiscent or tardily dehiscent, variously veined, mostly indehiscent.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds ovoid, smooth or tuberculate.

[FSOM]

M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Morphology General Habit
Annual to short-lived perennial fragrant herbs
Morphology Leaves
Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate; leaflets usually toothed
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Flowers in elongated axillary racemes
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx-lobes 5, subequal-Corolla soon falling
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens Filaments
Upper filament free, the other 9 united
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pods small, globose to obovoid, straight, indehiscent, 1–2(–4)-seeded.
Distribution
Some 25 species mainly in the Mediterranean region and central Asia.

[FTEA]

Leguminosae, J. B. Gillett, R. M. Polhill & B. Verdcourt. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1971

Morphology General Habit
Annual or biennial more or less fragrant herbs
Morphology Leaves
Leaves pinnately 3-foliolate; stipules adnate to the petiole; leaflets toothed
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers small, yellow or white, in elongated spike-like axillary racemes; pedicels short; bracts inconspicuous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx-lobes 5, subequal, ± as long as the tube
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla glabrous, caducous, free from the stamens
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Filaments not dilated, the upper one free from the other 9; anthers uniform
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Pod small, 1–2 (–4)-seeded, usually pendulous, longer than the calyx, falling off with the calyx and pedicel.

[LOWO]
Use
Used for forage, cover crops, green manure, medicine, human food, as a bee plant, hay and silage; widely introduced and often naturalised in waste places and along roadsides; the most widespread species are M. albus Medik. (white sweetclover) and M. officinalis (L.) Pallas (yellow sweetclover) ; improperly cured hay can lead to cattle poisoning

Doubtfully present in:

Cape Verde

Native to:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Altay, Amur, Assam, Austria, Baleares, Baltic States, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Buryatiya, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Central European Rus, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, Chita, Corse, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Djibouti, East Aegean Is., East European Russia, East Himalaya, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Free State, Germany, Greece, Gulf States, Hainan, Hungary, India, Inner Mongolia, Iran, Iraq, Irkutsk, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Khabarovsk, Kirgizstan, Korea, Krasnoyarsk, Kriti, Krym, Kuwait, KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Lebanon-Syria, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madeira, Manchuria, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, North Caucasus, Northern Provinces, Northwest European R, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Primorye, Romania, Sakhalin, Sardegna, Saudi Arabia, Sicilia, Sinai, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tadzhikistan, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Turkmenistan, Tuva, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, West Himalaya, West Siberia, Western Sahara, Xinjiang, Yakutskiya, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe

Introduced into:

Alabama, Angola, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Argentina South, Arizona, Azores, Bahamas, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, California, Chad, Chatham Is., Chile Central, Chile North, Chile South, Colombia, Colorado, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Easter Is., Ecuador, Finland, Florida, Georgia, Great Britain, Honduras, Illinois, Ireland, Jamaica, Jawa, Kamchatka, Kentucky, Kerguelen, Louisiana, Magadan, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexican Pacific Is., Mexico Northwest, Mexico Southwest, New Caledonia, New Mexico, New South Wales, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Niger, Norfolk Is., North Carolina, North European Russi, Northern Territory, Ogasawara-shoto, Oregon, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Queensland, Réunion, Socotra, Somalia, South Australia, South Carolina, Sri Lanka, St.Helena, Sudan, Tasmania, Tennessee, Texas, Uganda, Uruguay, Vermont, Victoria, Western Australia

Melilotus Mill. appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Gard. Dict. Abr. ed. 4: s.p. (1754)

Accepted by

  • Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1968). Flora Europaea 2: 1-469. Cambridge University Press.

Literature

Flora Zambesiaca

  • Gard. Dict. abr. ed. 4 (1754).
  • O.E. Schulz in Bot. Jahrb. Syst. 29: 682–735 (1901).

Flora of Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, Vol 1, (1993) Author: by M. Thulin [updated by M. Thulin 2008]

Flora of Tropical East Africa

  • Gard. Diet., Abr. ed. 4 (1754)
  • O.E. Schulz in E.J. 29: 682–735 (1901)

Flora Zambesiaca
Flora Zambesiaca
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Flora of Somalia
Flora of Somalia
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Legumes of the World Online
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0