Monday, November 16, 2009
Feay's Prairieclover - Dalea feayi
Feay's prairieclover (Dalea feayi) is one of only four prairieclovers native to Florida; a genus that makes some of its most spectacular impact in the Midwest prairie states. This species, however, occurs in the excessively well-drained sands of Florida's scrubs and sandhills and it is found only in peninsular Florida and a few locations in Georgia. I also believe it to be the most beautiful species of this genus to grace our state's flora.
Feay's prairieclover is a woody perennial that stands 18-24" tall in most situations. It has an erect and rather rounded growth form and produces a great many branches. As such, it makes an aesthetically interesting sight within the landscape - even when it isn't blooming. Prairieclovers have compound leaves and those of this species are a deep green and finely divided.
Blooming occurs in the fall; generally August-September. Mature specimens are a wonder to behold at this time with their crowns completely covered with soft-pink flower heads. Individual plants may have a hundred or more flower heads open at any one time and they remain open for several weeks before the pollinated blooms turn into reddish-brown seeds.
Daleas are not particularly interesting to butterflies as nectar sources from my experience, but they do attract a wide variety of bees and other such pollinators.
None of Florida's prairieclovers are currently offered commercially by any of the nurseries listed within the Association of Florida Native Nurseries, but we grow the 3 most widely distributed species in our gardens at Hawthorn Hill and offer them to others. Feay's prairieclover, however, is the most demanding of the three when it comes to growing conditions. This species requires excellent drainage to prosper over time and we grow ours in pure scrub sand. I have not had success with it when I have planted it into my typical sandy Florida landscape soil.
If you have an extremely well-drained and sunny location or are willing to create one in your landscape, this is one of the most beautiful wildflowers to add. Plant it in small groups and scatter it throughout the mid-region of your planting area so that you can admire both its foliage and its fall blooms. This is not a species likely to spread much after it is planted so add it where you want it right from the start.