Dalea formosa

DSC05797

Dwarf Prairie Clover - (Indigo Bush) - Dalea formosa
North Wicks Canyon
East of Hillsboro, New Mexico

On March 23, 2017, we found Dalea formosa, Indigobush, blooming in North Wicks Canyon east of Hillsboro.  A scientific synonym of this species is Parosela formosa, and it is also known by  the English Common Names of Featherplume, Feather Dalea, Feather Indigo, and Pea Bush.  In Spanish it is known as Limoncillo and Yerba de Alonso García.  It generally blooms April through August.  It typically grows at elevations between 2,000 feet and 6,500 feet - in rocky soil.  There are 70+ species of Dalea in North America, several of which are difficult to distinguish from like species.  This species is distinguished by being a small shrub.

As shown in the BONAP map to the right, the range of Dalea formosa, within the United States, is limited.  The light green color indicates that the species is native to and not rare within the county indicated.  Its range extends southward into northern Mexico.

The Jemez and Keres Indians used this species as a cathartic, an emetic, a strengthener, and as a source of fuel.

It has an interesting fertilization adaptation.  When the flower first blossoms it is yellow. After the flower has been visited by a bee, and no longer has any pollen, it turns maroon.  Many other plant species drop the flower once it has been pollinated, not so the Indigobush.  It has been posited that the species retains fertilized flowers so that it can more effectively attract the attention of passing bees (so that the non-fertilized flowers will have a better chance of being pollenated). 

This species was first described by John Torrey in 1828.  Dalea is a tribute to the English botanist Samuel Dale.



© Robert Barnes 2018