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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida)


Found in nearly every county in North Dakota, white prairie clover also ranges from Ontario to Alberta south to Alabama and northern Mexico at elevations below 7,000 ft.

White prairie clover is perennial from a heavy taproot and hardened stem base. There are 1 to several stems that, in North Dakota, are usually about 20 inches tall. Leaves are divided into 3-5 pairs of leaflets about an inch long. Seventy five or more white flowers are crowded onto spikes about 2-3 inches long. Each flower is about 3/8 inch long. Pods (legumes) are about 1/8 inch long and glandular.

Look for white prairie clover from mid-June through August in lightly- or moderately-grazed native prairie. Amerindians used some Daleas for foods, teas, dyes, and to make shafts for small arrows, but I found no mention of human uses of the plant discussed here.

Daleas are members of the economically important bean family (Fabaceae). Fab means "bean" in Latin. The family includes our alfalfas, peas, clovers, peanuts, and trees such as caragana and locust. The genus was named in honor of the distinguished English botanist Samuel Dale (1659-1739). Candida means "pure white" in botanical Latin. There are about 200 species of Dalea, mostly found in Mexico and the southwestern United States.

White prairie clover was first described by the distinguished French botanist and explorer Andre Michaux (1746-1802) in his Flora Boreali-Americana of 1803. In 1792, Michaux was unsuccessfully nominated by Thomas Jefferson to accompany Meriwether Lewis on a proposed expedition to explore the wilderness that lay west of the Mississippi River.


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