Jul 09 2013

The Bane Of Fleas

Published by at 6:44 am under Plants,Schenley Park

Fleabane (photo by Kate St. John)

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.  I wonder if it works ...


(photo by Kate St. John)

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “The Bane Of Fleas”

  1. Furry Gnomeon 09 Jul 2013 at 8:16 am

    We’ve got it in the meadow out back. I like your posts that give a few interesting details about things like this. Thanks.

  2. Art from Hershey PAon 09 Jul 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Once again, I learn something new! Thanks, Kate!


  3. Dave from NApolloon 10 Jul 2013 at 8:19 am

    Neat, always wondered what these were.
    Something new everyday!!

  4. Roberton 10 Jul 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Great tip, Kate. I knew about lavender and pennyroyal for fleas, but I hadn’t heard about fleabane. Sounds like a character from Game of Thrones. 🙂

  5. Bethany Dellagnelloon 27 Mar 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Why would it be advantageous to prevent nighttime pollination?

  6. Kate St. Johnon 27 Mar 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Bethany, I don’t know for why fleabane closes at night. I merely speculated that it was picky about pollinators because many flowers are. Here are two:
    Orange Jewelweed
    This orchid attracts a specific wasp

    Your question made me look further and discover that scientists don’t know why flowers close but they have theories: Some flowers probably do it to prevent freezing. Some are saving their pollen for the daytime when there are more pollinators.

  7. Bethany Dellagnelloon 30 Mar 2017 at 10:29 pm

    🙂 thanks.

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