Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Summer Farewell - Dalea pinnata   (J.F. Gmelin) BarnebyOnly member of Dalea in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
Author(J.F. Gmelin) Barneby
DistributionThroughout the Sandhills, and eastward into the southern Coastal Plain, but essentially not into the coastal counties. It occurs east to Lenoir and Pender (coastal), though it is likely of historical occurrence in some of these eastern counties.

This is a Southeastern species, on the Coastal Plain from southeastern NC to southern FL, and west only to eastern LA.
AbundanceUncommon to infrequent in a few well-managed sites in the Sandhills, but mostly rare to locally uncommon in the region; mostly rare farther eastward. This is an NC Watch List species. Though there many records for it, the species has clearly declined in recent decades owing to fire suppression of its pineland habitats, as well as to development, logging, and other factors.
HabitatThis is a species mainly limited to Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) sandhills, and within these habitats it favors somewhat loamy soils where there is a high diversity of herbaceous plants, as opposed to occurring on the drier sands. It tends to disappear from sites that have been fire suppressed for 10 or more years, but does well in frequently burned sites, such as in managed conservation lands.
See also Habitat Account for Loammy, Fire-maintained Herb and Shrublands
PhenologyBlooms quite late in the season, from the latter part of August into November; fruits not long after flowering.
IdentificationThis is a unique-looking species in NC, the only member here of a widespread genus from TN westward and south into Mexico. It has a straight (almost woody-looking) stem, growing to about 1.5 feet high, with scattered ascending branches that tend to form a flat-topped look, with the lower branches longer than the upper. It has numerous but small, feather-like leaves, the 7-11 leaflets so narrow as to be almost needle-like, each leaflet about 1/2-2/3-inch long. In late summer, the plant can "come alive" in numerous, small white flowers that absolutely do not look like any legume! These flowers are arranged in heads that can be nearly 1 inch across; the calyx lobes are white as well as the petals, and thus the effect is almost like a composite flower. In fact, most people upon seeing it in flower have no idea what family this is in, much less the genus or species! However, the oddly small and feathery leaves are enough to identify the plant in vegetative condition, but when in bloom the white flat-top look is impossible to miss, even it you don't know what it is. It can still be seen at many places on the Sandhills Game Land (and off-limits at Fort Bragg), but you may have a difficult time seeing it elsewhere.
Taxonomic CommentsIt was formerly placed in the genus Petalostemum, as P. pinnatum (as in RAB 1968), but essentially all references now have it moved into Dalea.

Other Common Name(s)Eastern Prairie-clover. Summer Farewell is an idiosyncratic name, but nearly all references name the species as this, owing to its late flowering period. Farther west, such as from TN westward, it probably would be best to name it as a prairie-clover; but in the Carolinas, even RAB (1968) used Summer Farewell, and that is the name that has universal usage here.
State RankS2
Global RankG5
State StatusW1
US Status
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