Saturday, September 6, 2008


We have this flower in abundance all along the roadside and in our back yard. Carrie and I were thinking it was wild mustard, and it does look very similar, but it is a wildflower called Wingstem!

Verbesina alternifolia
Composites, that is, plants of the Sunflower Family, Asteraceae, very commonly bloom in the late summer and fall. As we saw with earlier species of the week,
prairie ragwort, pale Indian plantain, and cup plant, plants of this family have heads containing two kinds of flowers, ray flowers and disc flowers. The ray flowers spread out like the rays of the sun, and are what most people call the petals. This disc flowers are tubular and crowded together in a button or disc at the center of the head. Wingstem, a late summer to fall blooming composite, follows this pattern. The ray flowers are long, yellow and somewhat droopy. The disc flowers are found in a spherical button at the center of the flower. The disc flowers are also yellow, but the button from which they grow is yellowish-green. The plant is tall, about 5 feet or taller, with leaves not in pairs on the stem, except the lowest may be paired. The common name, wingstem, refers to the leaf-like strips that run down either side of the stem, called wings by botanists.
Wingstem grows along streams and in moist woods from Ontario and New York, south to Florida and west to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. It particularly favors floodplains along streams, that is, areas that are periodically flooded, as during a particularly heavy rain. In Wildwood it likes to grow along Connelly's Run.

There are over 200 species in the genus Verbesina, mostly in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate areas of North America. Only sixteen species occur in the United States.
The species name, alternifolia, means "alternate leaves," and refers to the fact that the leaves do not occur in pairs on the stem, but alternate to either side as you go up the stem. This is actually not unusual, though; about a third of the species of Verbesina in the United States have alternate leaves. The genus name, on the other hand, is not so clear. Some sources speculate that it means "like a Verbena," but members of the genus Verbena, the vervains, are very different plants and don't resemble wingstem at all. Henry Gleason, in his monumental work, The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Eastern United States and Adjacent Canada, states that Linnaeus called Verbesina a printer's typo for Forbesina, the intended name. If this is so, we should believe Linnaeus, since it was he who gave wingstem its scientific name back in the 1700s.
Look for the droopy flowers of wingstem along Connelly's Run in Wildwood and along rivers and streams throughout our area. It is one of the most common bloomers of later summer and early fall.Posted by Picasa

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