Native Plant of the Week: Purple Prairie Clover ~ Dalea purpurea

Purple Prairie Clover ~ Dalea purpurea (Petalostemon)

Purple Prairie Clover was in full bloom along the highway on our drive back from Colorado in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. One of my favorite mid-season native perennials, it has bright purple conical shaped blooms with orange stamens that stick out beyond the petals.

Purple Prairie Clover starts to flower from the bottom upwards. The flower spike is light gray in color before the five parted purple flowers emerge. A major attractant to many bee species, the bees like to travel in circles around the flower spikes collecting pollen.

Here is a bumble bee about to enjoy the nectar.

At my local park in the restored prairie, many honey bees were nectaring upon the Prairie Clover as well. The first I've seen any number of honey bees this season.

Purple Prairie Clover grows between 12 and 36" in height, this year with all of our rainfall it's almost 3' tall. The fine linear pinnately divided leaves are light gray in color and contrast nicely with neighboring prairie grasses and broad leaved forbs.

We have tried to establish Purple Prairie Clover in our yard for several years, but had it browsed heavily by rabbits. This year though, now that the surrounding plants have filled in it is flowering nicely.

Purple Prairie Clover is a native of dry to medium well drained soils in prairies and open sunny locations.

It is native to Alberta southwards to Arizona and east to Ontario in the north and Georgia in the south.