Pearly Everlasting is a native erect perennial forb growing 1 to 3 feet high on leafy woolly-white stems that branch near the top. Stem hair is not glandular.
The leaves are alternate, stalkless and partially clasping, very narrowly lance-shaped, with 1 to 3 main nerves, margins that are entire but tend to curl upward on the edges. The upper surface is green with fine hair initially that becomes smoother with age, while the underside is much fuzzier. Leaves are widest in the middle section and have pointed tips. The main central vein is prominent on the underside. Plants are very leafy. Leaves are up to 4-1/2 inches long and about 1/6th as wide.
The floral array is a dense compound somewhat flat-topped cluster (a corymb) atop the stems.
The flower heads are sub-globose in shape (somewhat bell shaped) and are usually unisexual. All the florets are disc florets, there are no ray florets. In some heads, there are many peripheral pistillate florets with only a few staminate florets in the center. In other heads staminate florets predominate with maybe a few peripheral pistillate florets. The inner florets are usually always staminate. Corollas are yellow. What might appear to be ray florets are 8 to 12 series of phyllaries that are bright white, sometimes woolly on the outer ones; these surround the flower head. These are unequal in size and papery toward their tips. These remain white and fresh looking even after the yellow florets have faded which is why the heads are popular in dried flower arrangements.
Seed: Fertile florets produce a small dark dry cypsela, 0.5 to 1 mm long, that may or may not have hair and has a fluffy pappus attached, which separates and falls away early. Seeds are very small and light, 218,000 to the ounce. Seeds require 60 days of cold stratification for germination.
Habitat: Pearly Everlasting is found in a large variety of habitats across its wide range. In our area it can be found in woods, fields, and sunny well-drained medium sandy soils, mesic to dry moisture conditions. It will tolerate some shade and poorer soils. In good conditions it forms clumps from the fibrous rooted slender rhizomatous root system. According to Flora of North America, Anaphalis does not produce stolons and thus does not spread aggressively, although you will find some references stating that it is stoloniferous. There may be some confusion there with the Antennaria genus which is stoloniferous and at one time the name Antennaria margaritacea was applied to this plant. Existing plants can be easily divided.
Names: The genus Anaphalis is used exclusively with the Everlastings of which there are over 100 world-wide. It is believed to come from the Greek name for one the species. The species name, margaritacea means 'pearly' or 'pertaining to pearls'. It derives from the Latin margarita for 'pearl'. The author name for the plant classification is as follows: First to name the plant was 'L.' which refers to Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), Swedish botanist and the developer of the binomial nomenclature of modern taxonomy. His work was updated by Benth & Hook f. - ‘Benth.’ is for George Bentham, (1800-1884) English botanist, who published many texts of which his Handbook of the British Flora (with Joseph Hooker completing it) is most famous. ‘Hook f.’ refers to Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) British botanist and explorer, close friend of Charles Darwin, director of the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew, succeeding his father William Jackson Hooker. He and George Bentham published together a number of botanical papers.
Comparisons: Pearly Everlasting is the only representative of Anaphalis in North America and not likely to be confusing.
Above: Drawing of Pearly Everlasting from Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
Below: The yellow disc florets are surrounded by 8 to 12 series of bright white paperish phyllaries. The calyx and flower stem have fine white hair.
Below: Stems have long whitish hair. Leaves are sub-clasping with 1 to 3 veins, the central vein most prominent on the underside which is covered with dense white hair.
Below: The maturing disc florets have a fine white pappus attached to the seeds. Plants can form a nice clump as shown.
Eloise Butler introduced Pearly Everlasting to the Garden in 1913 and 1914 when she planted seeds of the plant. On May 5, 1916 she brought in 12 plants from Gillett's Nursery of Southwick, Mass. She reported these in full bloom on July 30. ON Sept. 23, 1919 she brought in a plant from Beaver Camp (Northern MN) and 4 more in July 1920 from Mille Lacs. The species was still in the Garden when Martha Crone did her 1951 census.
A. margaritacea is the only species of Anaphalis found in Minnesota. It is known in about 1/4 of the counties, widely scattered around the state. It is the only species of Anaphalis native to North America and is found throughout the continent except Nunavut in Canada and the Gulf Coast states of the U.S. The genus is native to Asia and India and widely introduced into Europe such that there are now about 110 described species of the genus. The plant was widely planted as an ornamental in North America and some of our populations undoubtedly escaped from cultivation.
Hutchins (Ref.#12) does not report any medicinal use of this plant among North American Native populations.
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"