White Sweet Clover

Common Name: White Sweet Clover.

Scientific Name: Melilotus Alba.

What to look for?  Clusters of tiny white flowers on a lanky, bush-like plant. The White Sweet Clover has round, light green stems that branch sparsely. Oval-shaped leaves in groups of three (3) are found on the branches. The upper stems terminate in long, narrow racemes or clusters of very tiny, white flowers. Both the foliage and flowers are mildly fragrant. Each flower is replaced by a seedpod that contains a couple of seeds. The root system consists of a taproot that readily divides into abundant secondary roots. This plant spreads by reseeding itself.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? White Sweet Clover pops up around the edge of the forest preserve off Indian Trail.

How big are they? The White Sweet Clover may grow to over three (3) feet tall. The flower cluster, or raceme is approximately four (4) inches in length with individual flowers approximately one-quarter (1/4) of an inch across. The trifoliate leaves are approximately one (1) inch long and one-half (1/2) inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? White Sweet Clover is a common plant across much of the U.S., including Illinois. It was introduced into the United States from Eurasia as a forage crop. Habitats include prairies, meadows, glades, thinly wooded bluffs, old fields, vacant lots, areas along railroads and roadsides, and waste areas. This species can invade prairies and other natural habitats, where it is regarded as a nuisance by ecologists.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of White Sweet Clover occurs from early summer to fall and lasts about two (2) months for a colony of plants; the peak blooming period usually occurs during mid-summer.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The nectar of the White Sweet Clover flowers attracts many kinds of insects, including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, beetles, and plant bugs. White Sweet Clover is considered an excellent nectar plant for Apis mellifera (Honey Bee) by beekeepers. The caterpillars of certain butterflies feed on foliage, buds, or flowers, including Clouded Sulfur. Foliage is eaten by the White-Tailed Deer, and Cottontail Rabbit.

Interesting Facts About the White Sweet Clover:

  • White Sweet Clover is considered an excellent nectar plant for Honey Bees by beekeepers.

  • Seeds of the White Sweet Clover are viable in the ground for 30 years.

  • The genus name ‘Melilotus’ comes from two Greek words ‘Meli’ meaning "honey" and ‘lotos’, meaning "lotus", all referring to the plant having abundant sweetness and being a favorite of bees.

For more information on the White Sweet Clover and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!