There are a number of species of Fleabanes. They all have numerous rays of various colors surrounding a flat yellow disc. They are either annual, biennial or perennial, and with the number of different species, they can be in flower from late spring to fall. Eastern Daisy Fleabane is a native erect annual, growing from 2 to 4 feet high, with many leaves and long spreading hairs (without glands) on the stem. Near the top of the stem hair may be flattened. The stem usually branches below the floral array. The stem also has shallow vertical ridges.
The leaves are both basal and stem. Basal leaves are lanceolate to ovate in shape, with winged stalks, and usually with teeth and the surface usually sparsely hairy. These wither away at flowering time. The stem leaves are alternate, more narrowly lance like to oblong. Stem leaves usually have sharp teeth until the inflorescence in which they will have entire margins. Stem leaves are without stalks but do not clasp the stem and the leaf edges have white hair.
The floral array is a loose cluster of several to many stalked flowers atop the stem, usually more than 5 flower heads. Flower stalks have hair.
Flower heads have two types of flowers, an outer ring of ray florets that are pistillate only and can be fertilized; these surround the inner disc florets which are bisexual and fertile. Each head is 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide with 80 to 125 ray florets that usually have white corollas but can range into pinkish. The central disc is flat with numerous disc florets that have tubular yellow corollas that have a five-lobed tip. These open from the outside edge first. The outside of the flower head has 2 to 3 series of phyllaries that are sparsely hairy, sometimes with minute glandular hair. Flower buds may have visible white hair.
Seed: Fertile disc florets produce a dry seed (a cypsela) that has a fluffy pappus for dispersion by the wind.
Habitat: Eastern or Annual Daisy Fleabane grows from a fibrous root system which may develop a taproot. It is found in moderately dry sunny places such as fields, roadsides, disturbed sites, in a variety of soils but competes best in poor soils. It is propagated by re-seeding. While this species is a summer bloomer, some plants may still set additional bloom in the fall. In scientific description of this plant, there are known intermediates between this species and E. strigosus.
Names: The genus name, Erigeron, is derived from two Greek words, either eri, meaning 'early' or erio, meaning 'woolly', and geron, meaning 'old man'. Thus a flower that has early flowers and gray to whitish seed heads, which in some species of Erigeron look woolly white like the head of an old man (more notes below). The species name, annuus, from the Latin means 'yearly', referring to the plant living only one season. The accepted author names of the plant classification are: First to classify was '(L.)' which refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was amended by ‘Pers.’ which refers to Christiaan Hendrik Persoon (1761-1836), South African born botanist, educated in Europe, maintained a large herbarium, published Synopsis Plantarum, describing 20,000 species, but best known for his work in the fungi.
Comparisons: For a comparison of the three Fleabanes found in the Garden see this page - Fleabanes.
Above: 1st photo - The floral array is a loose cluster of stalked flowers at the top of the stem and from upper side branches. Note the upper stem leaves are not toothed. 2nd photo - The flower has an outer ring of pistillate white ray flowers and a central disc of numerous bisexual yellow florets.
Below: 1st photo - The outside of the flower head has 2 to 3 series of phyllaries that are sparsely hairy, sometimes with minute glandular hair. 2nd photo - The small yellow pistils of the ray florets are visible and the disc florets have just started to open.
Below: 1st photo - Basal leaves have a long winged stalk. Stem leaves (shown further below) are stalkless, but not clasping. Both have toothed edges. The underside (2nd photo) has hair on the veins and margins and finer hair on the surface.
Below: 1st photo - The root system. 2nd photo - The cylindrical seeds with some pappus still attached.
Below: The flower buds in the loosely branched cluster can have very noticeable white hair.
Below: The same hair is prevalent on the toothed leaf and quite prominent on the stem.
Notes: Eastern or Annual Daisy Fleabane is indigenous to the Garden area. Eloise Butler catalogued it on Sept. 6, 1907. It is fairly common in Minnesota, found in many counties but sparse in the west western side of the state. In North America it is found throughout the southern Canadian Provinces and most states of the U.S. except in the Rocky Mountain area. It is thought to be a native of the eastern part of the continent and introduced into the western part.
There are 7 species of Erigeron found in Minnesota: E. acris, Bitter Fleabane (on the State Special Concern List); E. annuus, Eastern Daisy Fleabane (or Annual Fleabane); E. glabellus, Streamside or Smooth Fleabane; E. lonchophyllus, Short-ray Fleabane (on the State Special Concern List); E. philadelphicus, Philadelphia Fleabane; E. pulchellus - in two varieties, Robin's-plantain (or Fleabane); and E. strigosus, Prairie or Daisy Fleabane - in two varieties
The common name of 'Fleabane' might imply that the plant repels fleas, yet there is little literature confirming this. North American species of Erigeron, particularly E. canadense, (now reclassifed to Conyza canadensis), were imported to Europe and used for medicinal purposes. Culpepper (Ref. #4b) wrote that the name is due to the seeds of the fleabanes which are as small as fleas. Mrs. Grieve (Ref. # 7) writes that Erigeron denotes 'soon becoming old' as is appropriate for a genus where many species have a worn-out appearance, even when still in flower.
References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.
Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Text and photos are by G. D. Bebeau unless otherwise credited. "www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org"