9 July 2013
Here’s a native flower so common in fields and waste places that you’d think it’s a weed.
Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus) has white or pink-tinged flowers, 0.5 to 0.75 inches wide, 50-100 ray petals, and alternate leaves that do not clasp the stem. Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus) has slightly larger, pinker flowers, 100-150 ray petals, and leaves that *do* clasp the stem.
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)