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Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea (Petalostemum purpurea, Petalostemon purpureus)


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Purple Prairie Clover - habit
credit: tlindenbaum/CCSA

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Alternate name: Violet Prairie Clover

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description Common throughout the Great Plains and Midwest, this plant bears dense purple flower cones on slender stems.
Habit: native perennial subshrub or herb; bushy, with 1-several erect wiry stems, unbranched.
Height: 1-3 ft (30-90 cm).
Leaf: alternate, dark green, odd-pinnate, 2-5 in (5-12.5 cm) long; 3-7 narrowly linear leaflets, 0.5-1 in (12-25 mm) long, 0.125 in (3 mm) wide.
Flower: very small, pinkish-purple, 0.3 in (8 mm) wide, 5-parted; in dense terminal spike, cylindrical or narrowly conical, 0.75-2.5 in (2-7 cm) long, blooming from the bottom up.
Fruit: tiny egg-shaped pod.

Flower May to September.

Flower July - August

Habitat Dry to mesic, open, rocky sites: prairies, savannas, sandhills, sand dunes, rocky open glades, open woodland, forest openings, railways, roadsides; also cultivated as an ornamental, in wildflower mixes, for livestock forage, and in landscape restoration.

Range Native to central North America, from Indiana to Alberta and Montana, south to Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico; introduced eastward to New York and Georgia.

Discussion Also called violet prairie clover. Threatened or possibly extinct in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. Two varieties are proposed.

Comments Like other members of the pea family, this plant requires the presense of microorganisms which inhabit nodules on the plant's root system and produce nitrogen compounds necessary for the plant's survival. Soil/seed inoculum is available at most native plant nurseries.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution E. Indiana to s. Alberta, s. to Mississippi, n. Texas & New Mexico

Site Preference Prairies; open woods

Soil Preference Well-drained soils.