Pictured above: Summer farewell (Dalea pinnata) by Mary Keim. Click on terms for botanical definitions. View post as a PDF.
Summer farewell is a perennial herbaceous wildflower native to sandhills, dry flatwoods and scrub habitat. Flowers are borne in terminal heads. Flower buds are concealed by red ovate bracts. Each bud opens to reveal up to 30 white to pinkish-white flowers. Leaves are pinnately compound and alternately arranged. Leaflets are small, needle-like and bright green. Stems are reddish. Seed pods are hairy and appear silvery gray.
As the common name implies, summer farewell blooms in late summer and early fall. It attracts many pollinators, particularly bees. Seed pods provide food for birds and other small animals. Summer farewell is a larval host for the Southern dogface butterfly.
Members of the Dalea genus are commonly known as prairie clover. The genus was named after Samuel Dale, a British apothecary and botanist. The species epithet, pinnata, refers to the plant’s pinnate leaves.
Family: Fabaceae (Legume, pea or bean family)
Native range: Panhandle, north and central Peninsula, Martin County
To see where natural populations of summer farewell have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/.
Hardiness: Zone 8A–10A
Soil: Dry, well-drained sandy soil
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 2–3’ tall
Garden tips: Summer farewell makes an excellent addition to a dry, sunny wildflower garden. It is dormant in the winter, but its spring leaves, summer and fall flowers, and fall seed pods provide plenty of color throughout the rest of the year. Be sure to plant in groups of 4-5 plants; otherwise the plant may get lost in a mixed planting.
Summer farewell is occasionally available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Growers may post availability on www.plantrealflorida.org.