Wildflower and Native Legumes
Purple Prairie Clover
A tap-rooted legume with a unique, red to purple cylindrical flower head, which is a useful wildlife plant, and attracts butterflies. It is native to the tall and midheight prairie of the central United States. Purple Prairie Clover blooms June to August along dry banks, hillsides and prairies. This plant has low to moderate moisture requirement.
Maximilian Sunflower needs full sunlight, and has fair drought tolerance. It is an aggressive perennial wildflower native to the central plains states. This plant produces showy, yellow ray flowers. Because of its height, this warm-season flower is often used as a privacy screen. It is common on deep or heavy soils. This plant is rhizomatous, and very competitive in mixes. This perennial blooms late, from July to October.
Blackeyed Susan, biennial or perennial, is a highly adaptable species found on a wide range of soil types. It has low to moderate water requirements and adapts well in full sun to partial shade. Yellow sunflower-like blossoms are found May to October in fields, prairies or open woods.
Prairie coneflower is a drought resistant wildflower. Drooping yellow ray petals surround a conical disk and are borne on a single stem. A showy species common on gentle slopes, roadsides, or grassy prairies, especially on well-drained soils. Recommended in reclamation or wildflower mixtures.
White yarrow is a drought tolerant plant that does best in full sunlight. Flat clusters of small white flower heads bloom spring to fall. Feathery, fernlike leaves are distinctly pungent and are located along a fibrous, tough central stem. An aggressive species widely used for erosion control or landscaping. Often used as ground cover, spreads by rhizomes. Adapted throughout North America. Perennial.
Blue flax is a drought resistant tolerant plant that does best in full sunlight. Light blue flowers borne daily. This western native does best in dry, light soils. Blooms first year. Perennial.
Short spreading evergreen shrub. Found primarily in medium to heavy textured soils in valleys, flats, and slope areas. Extremely salt and alkali tolerant. Excellent forage for both livestock and wildlife.
A shrubby legume with small purple flowers clustered in four to six inch spikes that are atop two to three foot stems. This plant is a slow growing forb that is adapted to a wide range of soil types. It is a favorite for deer and other wildlife. Leadplant is an ideal ornamental species because it has showy flowers, is drought tolerant and shade tolerant. It also forms nodules on its roots to fix nitrogen and can be used for prairie restorations. It is also very palatable to wildlife and livestock.
Medium to tall, drought tolerant shrub adapted to a wide range of soil types. Does not do well in high water table areas. Provides excellent cover for birds and small animals. Palatable to wildlife and livestock. Use a local ecotype for best adaptability.
Small to medium half-shrub evergreen. Adapted to many soil textures on flat or sloped areas. Does not perform in acid soils or areas of high water table. Very palatable to wildlife and livestock.
Have long, yellow ray flowers that droop from a cone. Makes an attractive border fora background planting. Long-lived, true prairie plant native to tall-grass prairies. Blooms summer or fall, palatable to livestock and therefore is seen mostly in areas where grazing is minimal.
Every county in North Dakota probably has a population of American vetch. The plant is widely distributed in a variety of open habitats across much of the North American continent. The bluish-purple flowers of this perennial are about 3/4 inch long. Three to 9 flowers are widely spaced along each branch of the upper stems. There are several varieties of this plant in our area. The typical prairie variety has four to nine very narrow leaflets that connect to a midrib to form leaves about two inches long. Small, curly tendrils tip the ends of the leaflets. Stems are usually about a foot long, and may sprawl along the ground or climb on other plants. The legumes (pods) at maturity are flattish and about as long as the flowers. American vetch is readily consumed by livestock, so look for the plant in pastures that are in good range condition and not overgrazed. Some seeds of the vetches, such as the faba bean, are roasted and eaten whole or in flour. Several old world vetches are cultivated and plowed down for green manure.
The beginning of summer coincides quite well with the blooming of purple coneflower. This plant can be found throughout all but extreme northeastern North Dakota. The overall range of purple coneflower lies mostly within the band of grasslands that extends from Saskatchewan to Texas, at elevations up to 4,500 ft. Purple coneflower is a rough, hairy perennial that stands up to 18 inches tall. The 1 to 3 flowering stems bear leaves only on the bottom half. Flower heads are up to three inches wide; the rounded central portion bears a hundred or more brown disc flowers, while from the periphery radiate about two dozen rose-purple ray flowers that are up to an inch long. Fruits are four-angled achenes about 1/4 inch long. The prickly central portion of the flower head persists throughout the winter. Purple coneflower seems to prosper best on lightly and moderately grazed prairie in our area. The plant has a long history of medicinal use by the Kiowa, who chewed the ground roots and swallowed the juice to alleviate coughs and sore throats.
Canada milk-vetch blooms in late July. The plant can be found in many parts of Canada, in Siberia, across the eastern United States, and from Texas to Utah. Canada milk-vetch is the largest of the 21 species of milk-vetch found in the area; specimens over four feet tall have been encountered. Plants are perennial from rhizomes, so clumps of multiple stems are normally seen. Two to five dozen greenish-white to pale yellow flowers occur in dense cylindric clusters (racemes) up to 8 inches long. Each flower is about five eighths inch long. Leaves are green, up to 12 inches long, and bear up to 35 inch-long leaflets arranged pinnately. At maturity the cylindrical brown pods (legumes) are about one half inch long. Clusters of legumes remain upright all winter. Look for Canada milk-vetch in rich native prairie at the bases of hills and slopes.
Wild Bergamot is found from British Columbia to Mexico, at elevations up to 9,000 ft. Plants are also known as “horsemints” and “beeblams”. Look for wild bergamot in rich soils at the bases of prairie hills and in coulees. The plant is noted for its fragrance, and is a source of oil of thyme.
Wild bergamot is a native perennial with slender creeping rhizomes and thus commonly occurs in large clumps, with dark lavnder to rose purple flowers. Plants are up to 3 feet tall with a few erect branches. Leaves are 2–3 inches long, lance-shaped, and toothed. Flower clusters are solitary at the ends of branches. Each cluster is about 1–1/2 inches long and contains about 20–50 flowers. Wild bergamot is a member of the mint family that contains at least 3,500 species worldwide. The family is noted for its fragrant oils (lavender, rosemary, mint, horehound, thyme, etc.)
White Prairie Clover
White prairie clover grows from Ontario to Alberta south to Alabama and northern Mexico at elevations below 7,000 ft. Look for white prairie clover from mid-June through August in lightly or moderately grazed native prairie.
White prairie clover is a perennial that grows from a heavy taproot and hardened stem base. There are 1 to several stems that 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 granular.
Native perennial which commonly occurs in wet meadows, wet river bottomlands, stream banks, slough peripheries, fields, and waste areas. It is a rough, clump-forming perennial with a stiff, upright habit which typically grows 2–4' tall. Characteristics distinguishing blue vervain are its lance-shaped leaves, blue flowers, compact spikes, and fruits packed so tightly on the stem that they frequently overlap.
Found in dry areas of black soil prairies, gravel prairies, hill prairies, barrens with stunted shrubby vegetation, limestone glades, overgrazed pastures, abandoned fields, the grassy shoulders of highway overpasses, and areas along railroads. It favors grassy areas with a history of disturbance, particularly from grazing, and dry uplands with poor soil and sparse vegetative cover.
This native perennial plant is 2–5' tall, which occasionally branches out, and has a ferny appearance. Habitats include moist to mesic black soil prairies, moist meadows near rivers, openings in woodlands, limestone glades, and areas along levees. It is sometimes planted in pastures to feed cattle, and is used in prairie restorations to improve the soil. However, it recovers poorly from wildfires. This plant favors disturbed areas.
Short-lived perennial forb widely distributed throughout the US. Flowering occurs from June through August. The plant grows vigorously in poorer soils, possibly because it is a poor competitor with established plants on better soils. Oxeye daisy may require reduced competition from neighboring plants or disturbance to establish. Usually found in meadows, along roadsides and in waste places.
Partridge pea is an annual sub-erect native legume plant that reaches a height of 1 to 3 feet. The plant’s preference is for full sun and average to dry conditions. The soil can contain sand, loam, gravel, or clay, to which this plant will add nitrogen. It favors poor soil because of reduced competition from other plants. Partridge Pea is easy to grow, but can spread readily in dry, open situations.
A native plant usually found in the eastern Great Plains. It prefers full sun, dry conditions and does especially well in lighter or sandy soils. This native short-lived perennial plant will usually reach a height of 1–3½' tall and will bloom in late May and June.
Stiff sunflower is native from Ontario to Georgia and westward nearly across the continent. Plants may be five feet tall, but one to two foot specimens are most frequently encountered. Rough, hairy leaves grow in pairs up to about the middle of the stiff, prickly stem. Flower heads are purplish-brown in the center, with yellow rays about an inch long. Moderately and lightly grazed prairie supports the highest populations of stiff sunflower. This indicates the plant will be consumed by livestock.
This plant grows up to a foot and a half tall in our area. The most striking feature of the plant is the flower heads. These are brown in the center, with rays that are purple at the base and yellow at the tip; this pattern gives the three-colored “blanket” effect.