Jul 09 2013
Here’s a flower so common you might think it’s a weed.
Fleabane is native to North America and very common in western Pennsylvania. It grows so easily that you’ll find it along roadsides.
Pictured here is daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) in Schenley Park. Its white or pink-tinged flowers are 0.5 to 0.75 inches wide and its leaves do not clasp the stem. Common or Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) has slightly larger, pinker flowers and its leaves *do* clasp the stem. To remember this think “Common = Clasp.”
Fleabane flowers respond to light. The white rays open and close at sunrise and sunset. Before they bloom they bow their heads. In the morning fleabane pulls up its flower heads and opens its white rays. This seems like a lot of exercise for a small flower but I imagine it’s meant to prevent nighttime pollination.
Fleabane got its name from the belief that the dried plant kills fleas. Bane comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning murderer or destroyer and is often used in plant names. For instance, “baneberry” means death-berry; it’s poisonous.
If wanted to kill fleas I could dry some fleabane. Thankfully I’ve never had occasion to need it.
(photo by Kate St. John)