Yellow Blossom Sweetclover Melilotus officinalis

This drough-tolerant clover produces beautiful yellow flowers and can be used for forage, cover cropping, and more.

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The origin of the name.

So where does the name “sweetclover” come from? Probably it relates to the fact that when the leaves are crushed, the plant puts out a distinct sweet aroma. In earlier varieties the source of this aroma was identified as coumarin and used to develop the anti-coagulant drug called ‘warfarin’. Since these anti-coagulant properties were found to be detrimental to grazing livestock modern sweetclover varieties have been bred to be low in coumarin.

Really a Clover? No. But a Really Good Legume!

Yellow blossom sweetclover is not a true clover but is probably more closely related to alfalfa. Sweetclover leaves look much like alfalfa, but the margins of alfalfa leaflets are serrated only on the tips. Sweetclover leaflets are serrated around their entire margin. It is typically a biennial, grows 2-6 feet high, and as the name implies, produces yellow flowers. It is used for forage, cover cropping, conservation, and honey making.

When compared to the white flowering types of sweetclover, yellow blossom blooms roughly 2 weeks earlier and also matures earlier, usually grows less upright, possesses finer stems, and is less productive and less winter-hardy. However, yellow blossom sweetclover persists better in pastures and tolerate adverse conditions better than white varieties.

Sweetclover can produce and deposit a high percentage of hard seeds that persist in the soil for many years. This accounts for its consistent volunteering in many areas.

Drought tolerant, winter hardy and so much more.

Yellow blossom is one of the most drought-tolerant of forage legumes, and is quite winter-hardy. In temperate climates with mild summers it can survive and thrive through a second year of production. Sweetclovers grows where alfalfa, red clover and white clover fail, such as on clay pan soils or on sands and tolerates low fertility and wet conditions. Yellow blossom prefers non-acid soil (pH above 6.0).

This plant goes deep.

While not a huge forage producer (under 3 tons/acre), yellow blossom sweet clover has a valuable taproot growth that penetrates deep down in soil - up to five feet. This deep tap root and root branches give sweetclover a greater ability than most other cover crops in extracting potassium, phosphorus and other soil nutrients from insoluble minerals. Root branches take in minerals from seldom-disturbed soil horizons, nutrients that become available as the tops and roots decompose.

Nitrogen producer.

Yellow blossom sweetclover contributes up to 275 lbs. N/A and adding valuable organic matter.

Coat for Optimal Performance

For optimal performance, sweetclover should be inoculated with Rhizobium Sinorhizobium meliloti. This is best achieved with Nitro-Coat®.

Yellow Blossom Sweetclover Specifications

Planting
Zones
Humid or irrigated regions of zones 3-8; acts as annual in zone 9
Longevity
Biennial
Ease of Establishment
Good
Seeds/lb
260,000
Seeding Rate - Straight
8-10 lbs/ac
Seeding Rate - Mix
6-8 lbs/ac
Seeding Time
Fall (October-November) or late winter to early spring (February-April)
Seeding Depth
1/4"-3/8"
Seeding Method
Broadcast or drilled (preferred)
Method of Killing/Suppression
Mowing; grazing; chemical
Optimal Germination Temperature
Night temperatures > 40°F
Seedling Emergence/Vigor
Good
Reseeding Potential
Good
Root Type
Tap
Usage
Grazing Potential
Fair
Hay Potential
Fair
Use with Wildlife
Good
Use in Orchards
Good
Use with Row Crops
Good
Use with Other Grasses/Legumes
Excellent
Bees/Beneficial Insects
Good
Compaction Control
Good
Erosion Control
Good
Weed Suppression Potential
Good
Green Manure/Cover Crop Use
Excellent
Spreading Capability
Poor
N Contribution Potential
Good
DM Potential
Excellent
Forage Quality
Good
Harvest Time Frame (late/early/year-round)
Late
Number of Harvest/yr
1-2 per year
Other Comments
Hard seed so future volunteering is probable; Use only low coumarin varieties for livestock hay or grazing. Better adapted to short rotation pastures.
Tolerance
Bloat Risk
High
Disease Resistance
Good
Insect/Nematode Risk
Moderate; especially susceptible to sweet clover weevil.
Cold Tolerance
High
Traffic Tolerance
Fair
Heat Tolerance
Good
Drought Tolerance
Good
Shade Tolerance
Good
Dry Soil Tolerance
Good
Wet Soil Tolerance
Good
pH Range
Needs high pH (>6.0)
Required Fertility (P,K, other nutrients)
P, K, Ca, Mg needed; minor especially Mo, B also needed.
Planting Map