This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Occasionally on roadside wastes, railway banks and similar refuges for the vagabonds of plant-life, especially if it be in the Eastern counties, the rambler comes across a slender plant with loosely trifoliate leaves on long stalks, and long narrow racemes of pale yellow flowers. These flowers, considered individually, are seen to be shaped like several we have already considered (see page 43), with a certain amount of variation, of course. This is the Common Yellow Melilot, a plant that is not truly indigenous, but one that has been cultivated in this country for a great number of years, and of which some escapes from the meadows have settled like gipsy squatters on the unenclosed wastes. But the field-path rambler is sure to come across it in the meadows, so it is as well that he should know it. It will be at once noted that the flowers are all drooping from the flower-stem, and that when the petals drop off they reveal a similarly drooping olive-coloured pod, which is small, egg-shaped and rough, with transverse ribs. In the process of drying Melilot develops an odour similar to that of the Sweet Vernal-grass that gives the pleasant scent to new-mown hay. Flowers June to August.
There are two truly indigenous species:
I. Tall Melilot (M. altissima), with deep yellow flowers. Pod compressed, covered with net-like markings, hairy, black when ripe. Fields. June to August.
II. White Melilot (M. alba). More slender than the last, with smaller white flowers. Pod stouter, smooth, black. Waste places. July and August.
The name of the genus is compounded of mel, honey, and lotus, the name of another genus = the lotus with the sweet or honeyed smell.
Melilotus officinalis. - Leguminosae. -