Plant of the Week: Purple prairie clover

Purple prairie clover’s blooms are popular with both visitors and pollinators. Photo by Beverly Israely.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

Purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea, is a beautiful sun-loving flower native to the central section of North America. The plant has a deceptive name; purple prairie clover is a legume, not a clover, and it is part of the family of nitrogen-fixing plants like peas and beans.

This hearty plant is well-adapted to drier prairie climates that are found in the southwestern United States. In that environment, the taproot, or the main root from which others branch off, can grow to be up to six feet in length. This means that purple prairie clover can pull water from deep beneath the soil’s dry surface, withstand periodic wildfires, and even help prevent erosion.

A fun fact: Purple prairie clover is edible -- for both people and animals. In the southwestern United States it is incorporated into hay for livestock and enjoyed in the wild by pronghorn.

All along the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street.

Download our June bloom guide.

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