About Purple Prairie Clover: Meriwether Lewis described this prairie plant in his diary entry of September 2nd 1804, saying that “the Indians use it as an application to fresh wounds.” He went on to collect several more specimens and described them fully in his notes, since he had no previous knowledge of the plant. Purple Prairie Clover produces protein-rich seed that is a source of food for many birds as well as deer, antelope, livestock, and small animals of all kinds. Native Americans also valued this versatile plant, often brewing the leaves for tea or eating the roots as a delicacy. The Pawnees dried the stems and tied them together for brooms, leading to the nickname “broom weed.” The genus name Dalea honors Samuel Dale (1659-1739), an English botanist, physician, and historian.
Purple Prairie Clover Germination: Direct sow the seed in early spring, planting it ¼” deep in firmly compacted soil. Keep the soil consistently moist until germination, which usually occurs within 10-12 days. Thin or transplant seedlings to 15-18” apart. To start the seed indoors, plant it ¼” deep in a flat; keep the soil at a temperature of 65-70 degrees F and consistently moist until germination. Transplant seedlings 15-18” apart after the last spring frost or when they reach a height of several inches. This plant adapts well to sand, clay, and gravel.
Growing Purple Prairie Clover Seeds: Water seedlings occasionally until they become established; the plant develops rather slowly because of the long tap root, which takes much of the plant’s energy in its first year. Mature plants can tolerate drought because of their long taproot, but appreciate watering in dry periods. For the healthiest growth, control surrounding weeds. This plant does not spread aggressively, and attracts bees.
Harvesting Purple Prairie Clover: This unusual flower makes a striking addition to flower arrangements. Cut the stems long and place them in water immediately, stripping the leaves that will fall below the water level.
Saving Purple Prairie Clover Seeds: After the green spike finishes blooming, it will turn brown and dry. Since birds and rodents love eating this seed, it should be harvested promptly to avoid loss. Strip the heads from their stalks, holding a container underneath to catch the falling seed. The hulls do not need to be removed, but will slow germination; uncleaned seed will need to be scarified. Store the seed in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Purple Prairie Clover Info: Origin: US Native Other Common Names: Violet Prairie Clover Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer-Early Fall Height: 12-36 inches Spacing: 15-18 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Medium to Dry USDA Zone: 3a-9b Seeds Per Oz: 17,500 Produces a plant with sets of narrow 1” green leaflets, and 1-2” green spikes that bloom with a wreath of tiny pinkish purple flowers that move to the top of the spike.