Fabaceae-Medic-mel2017-08-17T16:07:04+00:00

Fabaceae: Pea Family — Medicago (Bur-clover) & Melilotus (Sweet-clover)

Bur-clover – Medicago polymorpha

Blooms:

Mar–July

Plant Height:

10–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Mediterranean

Invasive?

Yes – Limited

Habitat:

Many communities, generally places

Notes:

Generally prostate and more or less mat-forming; an invasive weed, especially in grassy areas.  It has small yellow flowers and wedge-or heart-shaped leaves. The fruits are small spiral burs which readily attach themselves to passing animals—especially those with short legs and long fur.

Spotted Bur-clover – Medicago arabica

Blooms:

Mar–June

Plant Height:

10–40 cm

Flower Size:

Small

Origin:

Southern Europe

Habitat:

Grassy places

Notes:

Less common than Bur-clover (Medicago polymorpha) but with similar flowers but leaves that are as broad as they are long.  The easiest way to distinguish the two species is by the dark blotch to be found in the middle of the leaves of this species.

Black Medic – Medicago lupulina

Blooms:

Apr–June

Plant Height:

1–4 dm

Flower Size:

Small cluster

Origin:

Europe

Habitat:

Waste places

Notes:

Less common than the Bur-clovers (Medicago arabica & polymorpha) and rather different in appearance with a small clover-like head with bright yellow flowers. On closer examination the individual flowers are more like those of the Bur-clovers than the clovers and the head becomes elongated during flowering, leaving a short spike of fruits.  These are distinctive, not forming a burl like the Bur-clovers but kidney shaped, slightly hairy and slightly lumpy, coiled only at the tip.

Alfalfa – Medicago sativa

Blooms:

Apr–Oct

Plant Height:

2–8 dm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Eurasia

Habitat:

Escape from cultivation

Notes:

Widely cultivated and prized for its delicious sprouts, this occasionally escapes.  It is a smallish shrub with clusters of bluish-purple flowers.

White Sweet-clover – Melilotus albus

Blooms:

May–Sept

Plant Height:

5–20 dm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Eurasia

Habitat:

Disturbed places, often near water

Notes:

Related to the more common, weedy, Indian Melilot (Melilotus indicus), this is a taller plant with longer, more open inflorescences, white rather than yellow.  Leaves are in threes, oblong and not as obviously toothed as those of Indian Melilot.  The fruit is an egg-shaped oval pod.

Indian Melilot – Melilotus indicus

Blooms:

Apr–Oct

Plant Height:

10–60 cm

Flower Size:

Medium cluster

Origin:

Eurasia

Habitat:

Open, disturbed areas

Notes:

Like its white-flowered relative, White Sweet-clover (Melilotus albus), this has slender leaves and an elongated inflorescence. The flowers are more or less tubular, yellow rather than white and in smaller, denser clusters. The leaves are conspicuously toothed.