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.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water

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.

Posted by: Wayne Goeken - Fertile
on: 2018-07-07 00:43:31

I saw a number of these silky prairie clover plants in the Fertile Sand Hills today (just west of Fertile, MN). I posted a photo to Facebook and someone identified it for me. Lots of lead plant blooming in the Fertile Sand Hills right now also. Purple prairie clover, harebells, some remaining spiderwort, and lots more in bloom. Rough blazing star buds getting ready to bloom. LOTS of poison ivy--I was mowing trails to make it easier for public to enjoy Sand Hills with less poison ivy.

Posted by: Bruce D. Anderson - Helen Allison SNA
on: 2018-07-21 21:01:42

Encountered a large population of silky prairie clover in dry prairie in the Helen Allison SNA. Pretty cool as I've never seen this plant before. Seen a multitude of other plants. Will return to the SNA within the next week to see the next round of bloomers.

Posted by: Brett W - Sherburne County
on: 2018-08-05 15:26:49

Not sure why but there is a bumber crop flowering at Uncas Dunes right now. Very popular with insects, particularly Bumble Bees.

Posted by: R Ringstad - BIG LAKE
on: 2018-08-08 12:57:44

We have about an acre of it. Covered with pollinatores, mainly bumble bees.

Posted by: Alan - Grey cloud dunes sna
on: 2018-08-24 20:13:16

Found flowering in drier, open patches of the dunes.

Posted by: Theresa A Chidester - Brainerd
on: 2019-07-27 21:07:55

First time seeing this in my area. Behind Costco parking lot in Baxter is quite a few plants. Lovely!

Posted by: Sarah - Belwin Conservancy, Washington County
on: 2020-08-03 22:49:21

8/1/20 Lots of it blooming on the prairie near the main classroom building at Belwin which is normally not open to the public but is now open on Saturdays, I think through September.

Posted by: Kenny h - Shooting Star Trail
on: 2021-06-24 07:40:31

I am very familiar with Lead Plant...is it possible to have Silky Clover here...how do you tell the difference between young Lead Plant, and mature Silky Clover

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-24 08:41:39

Kenny, check the stems: woody and hairless or herbaceous and hairy.

Posted by: Kim - Anoka
on: 2023-04-29 19:37:01

I'd like to convert part of my lawn to a native clover. Where would I find seed to spread?

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-04-30 05:40:32

Kim, Minnesota Wildflowers does not track who sells what, so check with native plant nurseries, many of which sell seed and plants via mail order.

Posted by: Cynthy - Orrock, MN
on: 2023-07-06 19:29:48

I have been seeing BEAUTIFUL Silky Prairie Clover in the Sherburne Wildlife Refuge!!

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.