Purple Prairie Clover

Photo of purple prairie clover, closeup of flowerhead
Scientific Name
Dalea purpurea (formerly Petalostemon purpureum)
Fabaceae (beans)

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.


Height: to 3 feet.

Where To Find
image of Purple Prairie Clover distribution map

Statewide, except for the Mississippi Lowlands.

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

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

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.

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.

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Similar Species

Where to See Species

This 80-acre native prairie remnant is owned by the Missouri Prairie Foundation and is jointly managed with the Conservation Department.
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!