Dalea villosa (Silky Prairie Clover)

Plant Info
Also known as: Downy Prairie Clover
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry; sandy soil, prairies
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:12 to 18 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers] A tightly packed cylindrical spike, 1 to 5 inches long, of tiny flowers with long pale yellow-tipped stamens, blooming from the bottom of the spike up. Flower color ranges from lavender to pink, and is sometimes white. The calyx behind the flower is light gray and woolly, most easily seen in the upper spike where flowers have not yet bloomed. A plant has a few to several spikes, which may be straight and erect but more often curved or bent.

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

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are about 1 inch long and compound with up to 21 narrow leaflets, each about ¼ inch long. Leaflets are covered in fine tan hairs, giving the leaves a grayish hue. Stems are also densely covered in fine hairs, often pinkish, may be multiple from the base and branching in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a tiny pod about 1/8 inch long, densely covered in woolly hairs and containing smooth brown seeds.


Silky Prairie Clover is similar to Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens); both grow in clumps in the same type of habitat, have long spikes with protruding stamens and hairy compound leaves. Lead Plant is generally a larger plant, however, with larger leaves, its flowers are more blue-violet in color, and the stem is woody and hairless. It also blooms earlier. Silky Prairie Clover comes in when Lead Plant goes out.

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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: Brian - Grey Cloud Dunes SNA near Cottage Grove.
on: 2012-07-22 14:49:52

In bloom now at Grey Cloud Dunes SNA.

Posted by: DALE
on: 2013-08-13 17:11:41

Seen on Sunday, August 11, 2013 in Kellogg Weaver Dunes SNA.

Posted by: Kathy - North St. Louis County near Biwabik
on: 2016-07-24 21:12:14

I have never seen this plant before along our walking trail in the nine years I have walked here, but today I discovered a blooming group of plants. The flower is a deeper purple than in the pictures on this website and it has orange accents.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-25 07:51:49

Kathy, what you found sounds like an Amorpha species, though neither they nor silky prairie clover should be naturally occurring in St. Louis County.

Posted by: M. Kloss - Northern Benton Co.
on: 2017-07-25 10:03:13

Just starting to bloom now. Growing well in VERY sandy soils.

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