South Dakota Native Plant Research
Fabaceae : Dalea purpurea

Fabaceae : Dalea purpurea


Download Seed: The smooth brown seed is 1.5-2 mm long. (82 KB)

Download Seedling: Two month old purple prairie clover seedling grown in research garden at SDSU. (80 KB)

Download Vegetative: Leaves are 1-4 cm long and made up of around 5 leaflets. (858 KB)

Download Flowering: Flowers are found in cylindric spikes. (1.6 MB)

Download Fruiting; The fruit pod is 2.1-2.5 mm long. (65 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Purple prairie clover

Native American Name

Dakota: Wanahcha, Lakota: tȟokȟála tȟapȟéžuta hú wíŋyela


Dalea purpurea is a perennial herb, with ascending to prostrate stems, which grow singly or in groups from a woody caudex, 20 to 90 cm in height. The stems can vary from smooth to very hairy. The alternate, odd-pinnate compound leaves are 1.5-4.5 cm long, with 3-7 linear to linear-oblanceolate leaflets, 10-28 mm long and can be smooth to hairy. The inflorescence consists of terminal, conical, densely hairy spikes, 1-7 cm long attached to a peduncles 0-15 cm long. Each flower is subtended by hairy bracts, 2.5-5.8 mm long. The densely hairy, bell-shaped calyx tube is 2-3 mm long with teeth 1-2 mm long. The papilionaceous corolla has clawed (narrowed at the base), pinkish to rose to purple-colored petals with the petal length beyond the claws as follows: banner 4.5-7 mm, wing and keel 3-5 mm long. The fruit is a single-seeded legume, 2-2.5 mm long. Purple prairie clover blooms from May into August on prairies, hillsides, open woods and stream valleys throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Purple prairie clover is a delicate, attractive, easy to grow addition to a native plant garden. The flowers bloom from bottom to top and provide color for a large part of the summer. They attract native bumblebees and butterflies; the seeds attract songbirds and the plants and do well in most soils.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect in July and August when fruits and seed turn brown. Remove the fruit tissues to improve germination.

Germination: Seeds will germinate with either fall or spring sowing.

Soils: Tolerates most soil types.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Dry to moist.

Fabaceae : Dalea purpurea