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Manitoba Museum

Legume (Fabaceae)

Purple Prairie-clover

Dalea purpurea Vent.

Purple Prairie-clover is easily recognized by its cone-like flower heads. Plants add valuable nitrogen back into the soil, and have a deep taproot adapted for drought tolerance. They are high in protein and palatable to mammalian herbivores. Flowers are visited often, and provide nectar for bees and butterflies. Seed dispersal occurs when plants are shaken by the wind, or by small rodents that may carry them to their dens.

Flower Colour:

  • Purple

Flowering Season:

  • Summer
  • Fall

Flowering Months:

  • August
  • July
  • June
  • September

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare. Listed as “may be at risk” in Ontario.

Physical Appearance:

The upright stems of this perennial grow 30-90 cm tall. They are unbranched, hairless, and in clumps of 2-15. Each alternate leaf is short and divided into 3-7 narrow leaflets. The tiny flowers have five petals and no noticeable scent. These occur in a dense cylindrical spike on the ends of stems, and bloom in a ring upwards from the bottom. Fruits are tiny pods with one seed that do not split open when mature.

Similar Species:

Hairy Prairie-clover, White Prairie-clover

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants are typically available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants. This is a good plant for prairie/meadow and native pollinator gardens, and attracts bees and butterflies. Propagation by seed is recommended.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Saskatchewan

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie


  • Limestone Glades
  • Open Woodlands
  • Prairies
  • Savannahs

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry
  • Moderate

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun

Soil Preference:

  • Clay
  • Gravel
  • Loam
  • Sand
Purple Prairie-clover