7 August 2021
When wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) blooms in August, its mop-like flowers reach as high as 8 feet tall. Wingstem often grows in clumps because it spreads by seeds and rhizomes. From a distance it looks ragged (below) but its double-looped pistils and insect pollinators (at top) are worth a closer look.
Wingstem takes its common name from the vertical ridges (wings) that run down its stem.
The flower disc resembles a pin cushion topped with brown anthers and yellow double-loop pistils. So far I have not found a floret whose anthers and pistils are protruding simultaneously, but I’ll have to look again.
The disc florets are so deep that long-tongued insects such as bees, wasps and butterflies sip the nectar.
Wingstem is easy to find in southwestern Pennsylvania because its leaves are bitter — deer don’t eat it. There are lots of opportunities this month to give wingstem a closer look.
(photos by Kate St. John)