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Plant Profile: Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum)

The unique flowers of this prairie native make it a welcome addition to a wildflower garden. The small purple flowers are produced on 1-2” cone-like spikes and are accented by golden anthers that extend beyond the petals. The flowers begin to open at the bottom of the cone and form a wreath that gradually moves upward. The result is a long bloom period that extends from mid-summer into fall. The flowers attract bees and the plant is a host plant for sulfur butterfly larva. The plant is anchored by a large taproot making it drought tolerant but difficult to transplant. Like other plants in the legume family, purple prairie clover fixes nitrogen in the soil and is valuable in re-vegetation and prairie restoration. It is high in protein and is excellent forage for livestock and wildlife.

Type: Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Small purple flowers with orange stamens are produced on spikes at the top of wiry stems from mid summer to fall.

Foliage: Pinnately compound leaves are dark green and are fine textured.

Size: 12-24” H x 12-18” W

Light: Full sun; tolerates some shade

Soil: Humus rich, average-dry, well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline

Fertilizer: Needs no nitrogen; apply phosphorus and potassium if soil is deficient in these nutrients.

Hardiness: Zones 3-8

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seeds (scarify with sandpaper); does not transplant well.

Companion plants: White prairie clover (Dalea candida), pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida), whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), nodding wild onion (Allium cernuum), and culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum).

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