Friday, July 10, 2015

Purple Prairie-Clover Ponderings

ProfessorRoush has a whole set of native wildflower photos that I've been sitting on, but each time I attempt to collect my thoughts and present them to you, another wildflower blooms and steals my attentions.  This week, it has been Purple Prairie-Clover, Dalea purpurea, that has been littering my rain garden with color.

I'm writing the name hyphenated as "Purple Prairie-Clover," rather than "Purple Prairie Clover", because Wikipedia makes a big deal about it not being a "true" clover (genus Trifolium).  I suppose since Purple Prairie Clover is the common name, I can take any liberties I choose with it, so, really, who cares about the proper grammar here?  Since my go-to website for wildflower info,, uses the hyphen however, then so shall I.

True clover or not, Purple Prairie-Clover is a perennial of the Fabaceae or Bean Family, which I'm especially happy to have in high numbers in the rain garden since it's a legume, fixing nitrogen for the grasses and forbs around it.  It seems to be increasing year after year in my back garden and I'm not surprised since it is high in protein and favored by livestock.  Previous to my invasion and siege on the prairie, this was most recently a grazed plot of land, so the Purple Prairie-Clover had probably been practically grazed out over the years.  The past week, the density of the plant is such that the prairie is dotted with purple and I enjoy the blossoms the most in the morning with dew hanging from them.  The bees are also happy about its presence here.

Dalea candida
There is a White Prairie-Clover, Dalea candida, but those are less prevalent in my prairie and I'm just as happy.  Dalea candida suffers from a problem shared by many white flowers; as it ages, the white turns to brown and just looks plain ugly.  Purple Prairie-Clover, by contrast, only fades to light purple-pink before the petals drop cleanly.  Both species are very drought resistant because of those thin, tough-skinned leaves, and the 6 foot long taproots that reach deep into the soil.

Ever the professor, I was interested to learn that Dalea purpurea contains pawhuskins A, B, and C, and petalostemumol.  The pawhuskins possess affinity for the opioid receptors and pawhuskin A, the most potent of the three, acts as an antagonist of mu, kappa, and sigma opioid receptors.  Probably that's just more useless information to clog my brain, but if I ever get accidentally covered in poppy sap during my garden excursions, I hope I remember to just grab some Purple Prairie-Clover and chew it as the antidote.  Need that as a mnemonic?  Just remember "ProfessorRoush Postulates Purple Prairie-Clover Possibly Prevents Poppy Poisoning."

And, yes, this whole blog entry was written just to lead to that last sentence.

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