Sweet Clover





Sweet clover is so named from the sweet odor which emanates from the

living plants. It is of two species. These are designated, respectively,

Melilotus alba and Melilotus officinalis. The former is also called

Bokhara clover, White Melilot and Tree clover. It is possibly more

widely known by the name Bokhara than by any other designation. The

latter is sometimes called Yellow clover. The difference between these

in appearance and habits of growth does not seem to be very marked,

except that the blossoms of the former are white and those of the latter

are yellow.



Sweet clover is upright and branched in its habit of growth. It attains

to a height of from 2 to 8 feet, according to the soil in which the

plants grow. The somewhat small and truncate leaves are not so numerous,

relatively, as with some other varieties of clover, and the stems are

woody in character, especially as they grow older. The blossoms are

small and white or yellow, according to the variety, and the seed pods

are black when ripe. The roots are large and more or less branched, and

go down to a great depth in the soil; especially is this true of the

main, or tap root.



The plants, according to Beale, are annual or biennial, but more

commonly they are biennial. They do not usually blossom the year that

they are sown, but may blossom within a year from the date of sowing.

For instance, when sown in the early autumn, they may bloom the

following summer. They are exceedingly hardy, having much power to

endure extremes of heat and cold, and to grow in poor soils and under

adverse conditions. In some soils they take possession of road sides and

vacant lands, and continue to grow in these for successive years. The

impaction of such soils by stock treading on them seems rather to

advance than to hinder the growth. They start growing early in the

spring and grow quickly, especially the second year. They come into

bloom in June, early or later, according to the latitude, and ordinarily

only in the year following that in which they were sown. Because of the

fragrant odor which is emitted from the plants as they grow, they are

sometimes introduced into gardens and ornamental grounds.



The uses of the plants are at least three. It has some value as a food

for live stock. It has much value as a fertilizer. It has probably even

more value as a food for bees. It has also been used in binding soils.

Its value as a food for stock has probably been overestimated. It is

bitter, notwithstanding the fragrant odor that emanates from it; hence,

it is not relished by stock, insomuch that they will not eat it when

they can get other food that is more palatable. As hay, it is hard to

cure and of doubtful palatability when cured. As a fertilizer, its value

does not seem to have been sufficiently recognized, and the same is

probably true of it as bee pasture, although many bee-keepers are alive

to its great merit for such a use.



This plant does not seem to find much favor with many. The United States

Department of Agriculture has spoken of it as a weedy biennial,

concerning which extravagant claims have been made. The laws of some

States proscribe it as a weed, and impose penalties directed against any

who allow it to grow. Legislatures should be slow to class a legume as a

weed, especially one that has much power to enrich soils. The author

cherishes the opinion that this plant has a mission in the economy of

agriculture and of considerable importance to farmers, especially in

soils that are poor and worn, as soon as they come to understand it

properly.





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