Across the prairies long ago, the summer was a time of many flowers, a time of blossom-brilliance and color. Prairie soil supported a large population of plants which were dependent for growth and life on its peculiar quality. This was deep and black, densely matted with roots; somehow the seeds of prairie plants penetrated this soil and grew. Many of them vanished when cultivation broke the sod and put corn and soybeans in place of grasses and flowers. Some managed to linger only where that prairie sod was unbroken. This gradually has narrowed itself to stretches between railroads and highways and in old cemeteries, and certain rolling land too steep for fields or inadequate for pasture.
Petalostemum purpureum (Vent.) Rydb.
June - July Prairie roadsides.
It is in places such as these that the delicate wands of prairie clover still are found here and there today. From June until August the rose-purple fingers of prairie clover blossoms wave in the winds and attract the bees.
Prairie clover is in the Pea family with the other clovers, but is not constructed in the manner of the common red or white clovers. The flower is only indistinctly like the butterfly-hooded flower of a clover. In Petalostemum the petals are all on thread-shaped claws, four of them nearly alike and spreading, borne on the top of the stamen filaments, alternate with the five anthers. The fifth petal is inserted in the bottom of the calyx and is heart-shaped. The flowers are tiny and are massed in long fingers of flower spikes at the tip and sides of a long, tough, wiry, grey-green stem with tiny, narrow, compound leaves. The entire plant lacks any suggestion of weediness. It is clean-limbed and fine, reminiscent of the beauty of the old prairie when flowers for miles covered the grassy sod.