Plant of the Week: Purple prairie clover

During our 2018 Spring Cutback, some selected plant species are intentionally left uncut, keeping their dried stems in the plant bed. This experiment is to provide more nesting opportunities and increase habitat for pollinators in the park. Some plants with slender stems are ideal for wild bees to nest in, and on the High Line, Dalea purpurea fits the bill.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Known by the common name purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea is commonly found in glades, rocky open woods and prairies throughout the United States. As a native to central North America, Dalea purpurea plays an integral part in Great Plains grassland communities. It's a great food source for many kinds of insects that feed on its nectar, pollen, leaves and seeds. Mammalian herbivores of all kinds also eat this protein-rich plant. Native Americans used the plant readily as food and medicine. They made brooms out of its stems, and enjoyed the pleasant flavor while chewing the roots. Leaves were used to make tea and steeped to apply on open wounds.

Dalea purpurea in bloom. Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

Dalea purpurea is a member of the legume family and has deep tap roots which make it drought tolerant. The large woody taproot also helps the plant adopt to conditions caused by periodic wildfires which is a natural component in grasslands ecology. Beside its tap roots, Dalea purpurea has one of the most important traits of plants in the legume family; the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. It has been frequently used in re-vegetation efforts to reclaim disturbed sites, prairie restorations and erosion control.

In early summer, the plant will have cone-like flower heads with rings of rose-purple bloom gradually moving upward as the season progresses.

PLANTING TIP:
Dalea purpurea is rather indifferent to the soil type and can be easily grown in any soil condition if the site is well-drained and in full sun. It may be slow to develop, but will also self-seed in optimum growing conditions. Dividing the plant is difficult due to its deep tap root so that propagation by seed is recommended. USDA zone 3 to 8

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT:
Washington Grasslands & Woodland Edge between 12th and 13th Sts.

Chelsea Grasslands between 17th and 20th Sts.

23rd Street Lawn and Seating Steps between 22nd and 23rd Sts.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.


TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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