Purple Prairie Clover

Dalea purpurea (formerly Petalostemon purpureum)
Family

Fabaceae (beans)

Description

A perennial legume with one or few stems from a common base, and flowers blooming from a cylindrical flowering head. Blooms June-September. Flowers grow at stalk tips in tight, rounded to cylindrical heads. Individual florets have only 1 true petal; the other petal-like structures are actually modified stamens. Flower color is rose-magenta to rose-purple. The buds are covered by silvery hair, and flowers open in a circle around the flower head from the bottom upward. Leaves are finely cut in 3–5 divisions. The leaflets grow opposite each other from the midrib, with the final one at the tip. At the base of the leaves grow narrow bracts (leaflike structures).

Similar species: White prairie clover (D. candida) is much like purple prairie clover, only the blossoms are white.

Size

Height: to 3 feet.

Habitat and conservation

Grows in prairies, glades, rocky open woods, and roadsides.

image of Purple Prairie Clover distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide, except for the Mississippi Lowlands.

Status

Common in the appropriate habitats. Increasingly common in landscape plantings.

Human connections

An easily grown perennial often used in landscaping in rock gardens, borders, native plant gardens, wildflower gardens, and prairie plantings. The unusual flower heads and delicate foliage make it a conversation starter. It has a lengthy blooming period and needs little care once established.

Ecosystem connections

Like other legumes, this plant fixes nitrogen in its roots and helps keep the soils productive. The thick, deep taproot helps to bind the soil even as it enables this plant to tolerate drought.