Melilots & Allies

Ribbed Melilot Dragon's-teeth Dragon's-teeth Ribbed Melilot

What are they?

This small group of mostly yellow-flowered members of the pea family consists of species that have been introduced to the region from mainland Europe. Melilots are straggly plants that can vary in height from around 10cm to two meters and have trifoliate leaves that tend to be broader at the base of the plant and narrower towards the top. Dragon's-teeth is a low-growing, mat-forming plant with rather broader, trifoliate leaves and distinctive, ridged seed pods.

Where are they found?

Melilots are straggly plants of rough ground, disturbed areas, roadsides and similar places. They are rather patchily distributed but can be quite common where they are found. Dragon's-teeth has not yet been recorded in East Anglia, but is well-established in short grassland in a number of places in southeast Britain and is worth keeping an eye out for on roadsides or recently seeded, grassy places.

Identification

Dragon's-teeth is readily identified by its solitary, pale, lemon-yellow flowers and distinctly ridged fruits. Melilots can be told by their upright, elongated spikes of pea flowers with trifoliate leaves. Telling the yellow melilots apart can be tricky; remember to check the relative lengths of the wings and keel on the flowers, as well as the pattern of ridges on the seed pods. The seed pods are green when young and darken with age.



Ribbed Melilot      Melilotus officinalis

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widely but thinly scattered across most the region as an arable weed and on disturbed roadsides and rough ground. Particularly common around Great Yarmouth, Ipswich and Breckland. Flowers June to September. The commonest melilot in East Anglia. The flowers appear in more open spikes than those of other melilot species and have the keel noticeably shorter than the wings. The seed pods are hairless and have more or less parallel ridges runnning across them.

Ribbed Melilot Ribbed Melilot Ribbed Melilot Ribbed Melilot
Habit
Flower spike
Leaf
Seed pods


Tall Melilot      Melilotus altissimus

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widely but thinly scattered across most the region as an arable weed and on disturbed roadsides and rough ground. Generally much less common than Tall Melilot and most frequent in southwest Suffolk. Flowers June to September. Despite the name, this species is no taller than other melilots and height is not a useful feature for identification. The flowers appear rather dense spikes and have the keel about the same length as the wings. The seed pods have short hairs on them and have rather irregular ridges running across them.

Tall Melilot Tall Melilot Tall Melilot Tall Melilot
Habit
Flower spike
Leaf
Seed pod


Small Melilot      Melilotus indicus

Introduced from mainland Europe. An uncommon plant, sometimes found growing from spilt birdseed or as an occasional annual on rough ground. Flowers June to September. The flowers are small and have the wings and keel the same length but shorter than the standard. The seed pods are unevenly ridged and remain a dull greenish-brown, not darkening much with age.

Small Melilot
Habit


White Melilot      Melilotus albus

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widely but thinly scattered across most of the region as an arable weed and on disturbed roadsides and rough ground. Nowhere common, but most frequent in Breckland, around Norwich and near the Suffolk coast, on sandier soils. Flowers June to September. A typical melilot in appearance, but for the white flowers and included here for comparison with the other melilots.

White Melilot White Melilot White Melilot White Melilot
Habit
Flowers
Leaf
Seed pods


Dragon's-teeth      Tetragonolobus maritimus

Introduced from mainland Europe. Although not yet recorded in East Anglia, this species is well erstablished in grassy places in a number of places in southeast England and should be considered if a low-growing pea with trifoliate leaves and pale yellow flowers is found. Flowers June to August. A patch-forming species, to around 25cm in height. The lemon-yellow, solitary flowers are followed by long, narrow seed pods that are clearly ridged on four corners. The fruits resemble those of the Asparagus-pea (a close relative), which is sometimes grown as a vegetable and has dark red flowers.

Dragon's-teeth Dragon's-teeth Dragon's-teeth Dragon's-teeth
Habit
Flower
Leaf
Seed pod