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Useful Tropical Plants

Melilotus indicus

(L.) All.

Fabaceae

+ Synonyms

Melilotus bonplandii Ten.

Melilotus melilotus indicus Asch. & Graebn.

Melilotus officinalis Bojer

Melilotus parviflorus Desf.

Melilotus permixtus Jord.

Melilotus tommasinii Jord.

Sertula indica (L.) Kuntze

Trifolium indicum L.

Trifolium melilotus L.

Trifolium melilotus indicus L.

Common Name: Annual Yellow Sweetclover

Melilotus indicus
Flowering stem
Photograph by: Fagg, M.
Image credit to Australian National Botanic Gardens
Melilotus indicus Melilotus indicus Melilotus indicus Melilotus indicus Melilotus indicus Melilotus indicus

General Information

Melilotus indicus is an erect, annual herb growing about 1 metre tall.
The plant is sometimes harvested from the wild as a local source of food medicines and as an insect repellent.

Known Hazards

The plant contains coumarin, a substance produced by the plant because it acts as an appetite suppressant and gives some protection from grazing - it is also the compound that gives some dried plants the smell of new mown hay. Coumarin is found naturally in many fruits, including strawberries, black currants, apricots, and cherries; it also has some medicinal applications, though it is also known to be toxic, affecting especially the liver and kidneys. Coumarin is of relatively low toxicity to humans – indeed it has often been used as a flavouring and aromatic additive in foods and other commodities. However, it can be much more toxic to other species, especially rodents and specifically rats.
The fresh plant material, consumed in moderation, is generally safe. However, the dried plant material, especially if it is not dried properly and is invaded by fungi, is potentially much more toxic as the coumarin breaks down to form other compounds that can have a strongly anticoagulant effect upon the blood. Warfarin, a well-known anticoagulant drug and rat poison, is one of those compounds produced from coumarin.

Botanical References

17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
,
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.

Range

Southern Europe - Portugal to Greece; Northern Africa; eastern Mediterranean through central Asia to China, Pakistan, India and Nepal.

Habitat

Fields and waste places in S. England and Wales[
17
Title
Flora of the British Isles.
Publication
 
Author
Clapham, Tutin and Warburg.
Publisher
Cambridge University Press
Year
1962
ISBN
-
Description
A very comprehensive flora, the standard reference book but it has no pictures.
]. Open places, alkaline soils of meadow, and roadsides in C, S, and SW of China[
266
Title
Flora of China
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://flora.huh.harvard.edu/china/
Publisher
Missouri Botanical Garden Press; St. Louis.
Year
1994
ISBN
 
Description
An excellent, comprehensive resource in 25 volumes. In addition to the botanical information the flora also gives basic information on habitat and some uses. An on-line version is also available.
].

Properties

Weed PotentialYes
Edibility Rating *  *
Medicinal Rating *  *
Other Uses Rating *  *
HabitAnnual
Height1.00 m
PollinatorsBees
Cultivation StatusWild

Cultivation Details

A plant of the warm temperate zone to the tropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,650 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 25°c, but can tolerate 4 - 28°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -2°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 600 - 900mm, but tolerates 250 - 1,300mm[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
Prefers a sunny position, but tolerates light shade[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Plants can tolerate moderate levels of salt in the soil[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
]. Prefers a pH in the range 6.5 - 7, tolerating 5 - 8.5[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
The plant can escape from cultivation and become a weed[
418
Title
Ecocrop
Publication
 
Author
 
Website
http://ecocrop.fao.org/ecocrop/srv/en/home
Publisher
 
Year
0
ISBN
 
Description
Basic information on a wide range of useful plants, plus details of environmental needs where available.
].
This species is often cultivated as a fodder crop and cultivars low in coumarin have been developed[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
200
Title
The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Publication
 
Author
Huxley. A.
Publisher
MacMillan Press
Year
1992
ISBN
0-333-47494-5
Description
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
]. When removing plant remains at the end of the growing season, it is best to only remove the aerial parts of the plant, leaving the roots in the ground to decay and release their nitrogen.

Edible Uses

Leaves - cooked[
105
Title
Tanaka's Cyclopedia of Edible Plants of the World.
Publication
 
Author
Tanaka. T. & Nakao S.
Publisher
Keigaku Publishing; Tokyo
Year
1976
ISBN
-
Description
The most comprehensive list of edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.
].

Medicinal

The seed is made into a gruel and used in the treatment of bowel complaints and infantile diarrhoea[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
,
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
].
The plant is discutient, emollient, astringent, strongly laxative and narcotic[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
,
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
,
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
]. It is used externally as a poultice or plaster on swellings[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
,
240
Title
Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Publication
 
Author
Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C.
Publisher
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Delhi.
Year
1986
ISBN
-
Description
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.
].

The plant contains coumarin, which is an anticoagulant[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].
The plant also contains dicumarol, which is a broad spectrum bactericide[
218
Title
Medicinal Plants of China
Publication
 
Author
Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
Publisher
Reference Publications, Inc.
Year
1985
ISBN
0-917256-20-4
Description
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
].

Other Uses

The leaves repel insects. They have been placed in beds to repel bedbugs[
257
Title
Native American Ethnobotany
Publication
 
Author
Moerman. D.
Publisher
Timber Press. Oregon.
Year
1998
ISBN
0-88192-453-9
Description
Very comprehensive but terse guide to the native uses of plants. Excellent bibliography, fully referenced to each plant, giving a pathway to further information. Not for the casual reader.
].

Propagation

Seed - sow in situ[
87
Title
Green Manures.
Publication
 
Author
Woodward. L. Burge. P.
Publisher
Elm Farm Research Centre.
Year
1982
ISBN
-
Description
Green manure crops for temperate areas. Quite a lot of information on a number of species.
]. Pre-soaking the seed for 12 hours in warm water will speed up the germination process, particularly in dry weather[
K
Title
Plants for a Future
Author
Ken Fern
Description
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.
]. Germination will usually take place within 2 weeks.
Cite as: Tropical Plants Database, Ken Fern. tropical.theferns.info. 2019-12-06. <tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Melilotus+indicus>

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