Plant of the Week: Erigeron strigosus; Daisy Fleabane
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in "Plant of the Week." Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.
Each week since 1997, Dr. Gerald Klingaman has offered readers a unique window as he chronicles of the social history of plants.
"What always interested me was the background of the plants and how they got there and the people involved in bringing them forward," he said.
Klingaman, a retired extension horticulturist who is now operations director for the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has created is a library of hundreds of plant histories that run in newspapers across the state and have become a favorite of gardeners in Arkansas and beyond. We hope you'll enjoy our extensive archive of his works and return each week to see what's new.
On many of my western forays into the Rocky Mountains I have come across a number of dwarf fleabanes (Erigeron sp.) that I’d love to grow in my rock garden. But, even though Arkansas has six species of native fleabanes – many of then on the weedy side – I’ve had no luck with getting the western species established in my garden. Daisy or Prairie Fleabane (E. strigosus) is native in Arkansas and compact enough I may have to give it a try.
Daisies are a botanist’s nightmare when it comes to identification and of these, perhaps none are more problematic than the fleabanes. With over 170 species growing in North America and 390 described worldwide, they test the patience of even the best field botanist.
Like most fleabanes, this species is described as an annual, biennial or short-lived perennial. It grows from one to two-foot-tall with branches forming on the upper half of the stem. Basal leaves are to four inches long with leaves formed on the branched stems smaller, elliptical and lacking a petiole.
In late spring and early summer, a white daisy is produced at the ends of each of the branches. Flowers are from half to three-quarters of an inch across with a prominent yellow button of disc florets in the center of a whorl of 50 to 100 slender white ray florets. Flowers age to a pinkish color but occasionally blue-tinged forms are seen.
The genus name Erigeronis from Greek and translates as wooly old man and is probably a reference to the gray, fuzzy seed heads that form quickly after flowering.
The most common fleabanes in Arkansas are the large (two to three feet), white-flowered Philadelphia Fleabane (E. philadelphicus) and E. pulchellas, the often lilac-colored Robin’s Fleabane, that grows to under two feet tall and has flower heads to an inch across. All three of these native fleabanes are native across almost all of the United States, only failing in the desert southwest and as it gets too hot and muggy in the Gulf Coastal Plain.
Fleabanes get their common name from the folk belief that these plants can discourage or ward of fleas. Gerard, in his 16thcentury Herbal says that the foliage should be burned to be most effective.
Fleabanes are common wildflowers in disturbed sites around the state but not so often grown in gardens. They tend to be short lived, usually two to three years at best, and sometime become a bit weedy in refined gardens. Probably their best use is in wildflower plantings where they will provides an effective early display of daisy like flowers and in the rock garden where the smaller kinds can find a happy home.
For more information about horticulture or to see other Plant of the Week columns, visit Extension’s Website, www.uaex.edu, or contact your county extension agent. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the U of A Division of Agriculture.
By: Gerald Klingaman, Retired
Extension News - April 20, 2018