Dalea purpurea (Purple Prairie Clover)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry fields, prairies, rocky areas
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] A thimble-shaped flower head ½ to 2½ inches long at the top of the stem, the flowers blooming from the bottom of the spike up. Tiny 5-petaled purple flowers with orange or yellow-tipped stamens are densely packed around the cone. The calyx holding the flower is woolly, dull gray to rusty red, and easily visible in the upper spike where flowers have not yet bloomed.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Small compound leaves 1½ to 3 inches long, with 3 to 7 linear leaflets each up to 1 inch long and less than 1/8 inch wide. The leaves may be densely packed on the lower part of the stem and more sparse on the upper part. Attachment is alternate. Stems are multiple from the base, unbranched, hairless and slightly ridged.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry, hairless seed that remains in the calyx until dislodged by a strong enough wind or by critters.


Purple Prairie Clover typically grows in clumps. When not flowering it looks similar to White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida), which is less clump-forming and has broader leaflets. It is a great plant for pollinators and does well in a sunny home garden in average to dry soil.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Kristin - Avon
on: 2009-08-02 18:02:17

These lovely little flowers bloom all along the wobegone trail between St. Joseph and Albany.

Posted by: Lisa - Nevis (12 miles from Park Rapi
on: 2009-08-19 09:18:40

I just noticed some of these beautiful little flowers this year for the first time. They are growing along the Heartland Trail just outside of Nevis.

Posted by: Ed - Houston County
on: 2011-07-08 20:26:26

I did a wild flowrer planting on a hillside at our La Crescent, MN Farm 7 years ago. This summer (2011) for the first time, these beautiful purple flowers came alive.

Posted by: Daniel - St. Paul, Lake Phalen
on: 2011-07-11 05:09:13

I saw only two of these flowers on my 3 mile walk around the lake. I hope they will not be molested so there will be more next year. I am from Illinois and have never seen them there. These flowers are beautiful!

Posted by: john - rochester, mn
on: 2011-07-14 22:48:46

I have seen these flowers along the bike trail, between mayowood and hy vee parking lot.

Posted by: Kari - Wayzata, hillside below the library
on: 2012-06-16 20:40:06

These blossoms remind me of ballerina tutus--and when you look closely, there's a tiny yellow-orange stamen --the color contrast is vivid up close!

Posted by: Stephanie - Hastings
on: 2012-06-23 15:17:30

These were growing in a local park near some wild daisys. They have an amazing scent! Their leaves smell strongly of an orange when crushed. My kids thought they smelled like "Cutie Oranges". So neat!

Posted by: Sue - Sauk Centre, 10 miles north on Co. 2
on: 2012-08-05 13:41:09

Seen them for the 1st time walking the dog in the road ditch. Very lovely!

Posted by: Jay - Lake Hiawatha, Minneapolis
on: 2013-07-08 11:26:28

Surprised to see these as part of the restoration effort along the northeastern shore of Lake Hiawatha not far from the recreation building. What a treat!

Posted by: Dianne - Blaine
on: 2013-07-23 14:52:05

Saw these today at Lochness Park in Blaine, on the trail around the lake.

Posted by: Darci - Minneapolis
on: 2013-08-14 15:56:18

I have these growing in a rain garden in front of my house in North Minneapolis and they are a fantastic addition. Super low-maintenance. This is year three and they really are unique and long-lasting. Even when not blooming, the bluish, lacy foliage is very pretty. For some reason the pollinators prefer my coneflowers and yarrow, though.

Posted by: Paul - SAINT PAUL
on: 2014-07-05 10:11:59

In abundance, just starting to bloom, at Ottawa Bluffs nature preserve, LeSueur County, 4 July 2014.

Posted by: Kerry - New Ulm
on: 2014-07-09 16:29:08

I just spotted this flower in our conservation reserve plot! It's gorgeous!

Posted by: Fred - Savage
on: 2014-07-12 19:14:24

This flower is growing along my hiking path in Savage.

Posted by: Jerry - Whitewater State Park (MN)
on: 2014-07-23 13:41:53

Found on the Chimney Rock trail on top of the bluff.

Posted by: linda - Hythecker S & N area
on: 2015-08-22 09:30:51

Found on a guided tour of this area on 8-8-15.

Posted by: luciearl - Owatonna, MN
on: 2016-07-17 08:44:17

Many of these blooming at Leo Rudolph Nature Preserve in mid July.

Posted by: Linda - Houston
on: 2017-07-14 21:07:43

Although I don't recall seeing them last year, these beauties are prolific along the Root River Trail on the western edge of Houston and are in full bloom right now.

Posted by: Mark - SE Wadena County
on: 2017-07-27 18:45:34

We have these blooming currently in our fields along side many other native prairie plants. The ground hasn't been tilled in over 45 yrs, so one can get an idea how the natural grassland looked prior to cultivation.

Posted by: Wendy - Historic Pembina Trail, Viking MN
on: 2018-07-02 16:13:39

These stunning neon purple flowers bloom amongst pink and white wild roses along the sides of the gravel road. We often ride our horses on the Pembina Trail and love to see these bright beauties all along our way. Gorgeous!!

Posted by: Jean Parks - Cuyana Bike Trail, Crosby MN
on: 2018-07-05 11:54:23

We noticed these beautiful flowers along the bike trail in Crosby, MN

Posted by: Ethan Swanson - Elk River
on: 2018-08-19 22:51:49

It grows in boulevard near library in Elk River

Posted by: Marie Brekken - West Polk County
on: 2019-07-22 20:15:53

Numerous groups of plants in an un-mowed ditch 10 miles southeast of Crookston. Beautiful flowers. Can plants be transplanted or seeds harvested and planted in a wildflower garden we have established with mainly milkweed for Monarchs?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-07-22 20:25:42

Marie, please do not take plants from the wild. You might harvest some seed but it's always a good idea to get the landowner's permission first.

Posted by: Celina Eliasen - Iowa
on: 2020-01-21 05:15:57

Finally, courtesy of Patrick Swanson, two closer looks at insect sampling small purple prairie clover flowers last month in Harrison County. they are fun to see. And they also demonstrate that wildflowers, especially native ones, help birds by hosting the insects that are essential to the survival of almost all bird babies.

Posted by: Ron Johannsen - Trenton Lake
on: 2020-07-06 11:29:40

Started blooming now, so bright when first begin blooming.

Posted by: Robyn Naumann - Nicollet
on: 2020-07-19 14:21:25

Just down the road from Swan Lake I found a beautiful specimen. Love the color.

Posted by: D Beer - Bemidji
on: 2020-08-28 15:38:28

I grabbed some seeds from alongside a road. When is the best time to plant them? I tried some late last fall but haven't seen any plants from that. And since they mow along that road/street anyway I might just grab plants if these seeds don't produce. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Posted by: Elizabeth Bryant - Eagan
on: 2021-06-20 18:13:54

Growing along the trails at Whitetail Woods Park in Dakota County. Brilliant color.

Posted by: Carole Megarry - Restored oak savannah near Coldwater spring
on: 2021-06-30 13:43:52

Saw a plant here in the restored prairie near Coldwater Spring near Minnehaha Park in So Mpls

Posted by: Tom Terfehr - Otter Tail County - Eagle Lake Township
on: 2021-07-07 08:58:25

Approximately 20 plants growing along the roadside in disturbed soil. First time we have seen them in that location.

Posted by: Kristi - Rochester
on: 2022-07-01 15:33:21

We planted a few purple prairie cover seedlings as part of a home "pollinator patch" last spring. They hardly grew and we assumed they wouldn't return this year but they did! However, they are again very small and fragile, maybe 8 inches tall and just a few small stalks. Is this to be expected with new, young plants as they get established? How much shade can they tolerate? They probably get about 4ish hours of full sun per day.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-01 19:17:21

Kristi, note the habitat of this species: dry open prairie, typically in sandy or rocky soil. It sounds like you haven't given it the ideal growing conditions - it probably wants more sun, at least.

Posted by: Linda - Lafayette
on: 2022-07-04 21:08:05

We've noticed these purple Prairie Clovers the past couple of years in our neighbors CRP set aside land. We believe he seeded the grassland with a native wildflower mix. It's lovely to watch the variety of flowers bloom throughout the year.

Posted by: Janet - Shakopee
on: 2022-07-26 06:55:08

Our purple prairie clovers took about 4 yrs. to really establish and now bloom prolifically. They were planted from 1yr. old purchased seedlings. Is that typical?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-07-26 08:10:37

Janet, I don't know about purple prairie clover specifically, but some species do take several years before the first flowers appear.

Posted by: Marie F Merten - Kensington Co Rd 15
on: 2023-07-16 22:04:57

Drove by these striking flowers in the ditch and had to go back to look - may bees enjoying these beauties!

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