Saturday, June 27, 2015

Monthly Native Plant Profile: #3 Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

(Purple Praire clover, in a landscape setting)

Purple Praire Clover- Dalea purpurea

Purple Prairie Clover promises to be a future staple of Midwestern native plant gardens. Throughout it’s native range, it specializes in low fertility, droughty conditions in which it’s yellowish taproot branches through and underneath the roots of prairie grasses like Prairie Dropseed, Indian Grass, Little Bluestem, and Side Oats Grama. In the prairie the purple stands out amongst a sea of yellow flowers in early-mid summer, attracting many different kinds of native bees and honeybees.

It finds enough water to prosper from the shortgrass prairies of Arizona, to dry soil microclimate prairies in the East. Though, in mature succession of midwestern tall grass prairies, it again finds enough resources to cooperate in-between intensively rooted tall grasses. This means, in average midwestern conditions, plant Purple Prairie Clover in well drained soil of any texture, preferably silty or sandy, and watch it thrive without a drop of tap water. They grow to a height of 12"-16", and shouldn't be cut all the way to the ground as they form a semi-woody crown in the fall that will bud out new growth in the spring. The fuzzy seed heads also give an interesting texture/subject to a wintery landscape, and even more so with snow fall. The bloom period depends on the genotype your seed is grown from. Minnesota genotype as show to bloom in Southwest Ohio Early June through June. While more local genotype from Northwest Indiana Tallgrass Prairie Remnants blooms Early July through July. Always select seed sources closes to your local climate, as noted in a previous blog posts, non-local genotype can be the beginning of many complications ecological and aesthetically. 

Personally I've grown them from seed in 7" plugs, which now in their 3rd full season, have turned into the flowers pictured above, and in the video at the end of this blog post. I found that, they do indeed require no water, and are best appreciated up close, in the foreground paralleling a walkway or entrance. This will be one of the many plants Pioneer Landscapes grows at our Fall Native Perennial Plant Sale. Email to be reminded of the event, via email. 

(Purple Prairie Clover in one of it's natural niches, Somme Prairie Grove Chicago, Illinois)


(Purple Prairie Clover cooperating with native bee species and honeybees in an urban setting)

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