The Bane Of Fleas

Fleabane (photo by Kate St. John)
Daisy fleabane, Schenley Park, 2016 (photo by Kate St. John)

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)

7 thoughts on “The Bane Of Fleas

  1. 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. 🙂

    1. 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.

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