The flowers that occur on the North America prairie in many instances are species that you may cultivate and use in your own garden settings. These prairie flowers in their natural environment often grow tall so that they can compete with the grasses of their ecosystem. Prairie flowers come in various colors and most have an ability to handle an assortment of growing conditions.
Purple Prairie Clover
The purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) is a thin but erect plant that grows between 1 and 3 feet high. This is one of the prairie flowers with the largest geographical range. Purple prairie clover is present from British Columbia to Arizona and as far to the east as Alabama in the south and Ontario in the north. Purple prairie clover has compound leaves, with as many as seven narrow leaflets as long as three-quarters of an inch on one stem. The flowers exist on a cone-shaped head, are a quarter inch long and have a purple color to them.
You will have little trouble growing this prairie flower species if you place it in a spot that gets a full dose of sun and drains relatively well. The plant has a deep taproot, which translates into you not having to worry about constantly watering it, as it tolerates dry conditions. Purple prairie clover is a good fit for such scenarios as wildflower gardens, borders and in rock gardens. The “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers” says that because of its high protein content, this is a species that grazing animals, like the pronghorn antelope, look for on the prairie.
Prairie Blazing Star
The Prairie blazing star’s (Liatris pycnostachya) height may keep you from using it as a border species, says the Missouri Botanical Gardens website, because it can overwhelm a border. The plant, capable of growing 5 feet high, produces attractive purple spikes of flowers. A member of the aster family, prairie blazing star has leaves that resemble those of grass and the rigid stems are typically hairy.
The plants grow in clumps in the prairie ecosystem and in places such as woodlands and along the side of the road and railroad tracks. The spikes upon which the flowers develop can reach 20 inches in length, with the flowers opening from the top to the bottom around July and August. Birds, especially hummingbirds, as well as butterflies find this flower appealing. The heat of summer, drought and poor soils all have little impact on this species. You may have to stake the flower spikes to keep them erect. The prairie blazing star’s flowers are fine for cutting and using inside.
Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) is a wildflower of the rose family that occurs on the prairie in states such as Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota and the Dakotas. Prairie smoke can grow in moist ground or in soil that is somewhat dry. The plant is between 6 inches and a foot in height and its flowers vary from pink to a red-purple combination of shades. The flowers bloom by the latter part of spring ad then develop into seed heads that possess plume-like tails that give the plant its name, as they look feathery and wispy. Prairie smoke spreads by underground rhizomes, which you can divide in the fall and transplant to other areas if you so desire. The uses for prairie smoke include placing it in a naturalized spot on your property or incorporating it into a native plant garden. The plant will fare poorly in a place that stays wet during the winter. Afternoon shade in climates where the summers are hot will help this prairie plant.