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Once marketed to beekeepers as the "Golden Honey Plant" for good reason. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation recognizes Verbesina alternifolia as having special value to pollinators because it supports a great diversity of bees and wasps. It is also a host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly, Summer Azure butterfly, and Gold Moth. Despite the great ecological value of this species and frequent occurrence in native prairies, this plant is often left out of field guides.Very tall, Verbesina alternifolia (Wingstem) is a clump-forming perennial boasting large dome-shaped clusters of bright yellow daisies in late summer to fall. Blooming for 4-6 weeks, they are attractive to bees, butterflies and skippers.
The blossoms are borne atop strongly upright, stiff, hairy stems adorned with our raised ridges, hence the name 'wingstem'. Each luminous flower, 1-2 in. across (2-5 cm), features up to 10 reflexed, yellow ray florets and a slightly darker yellow center disk. Their real charm is the disk of tiny florets, projecting outward like a pincushion with thick needles. A single one-seeded fruit (achene) is produced by each disk floret. It may be dispersed by strong wind or carried by birds and other animals. The foliage of olive-green, elliptic or lanceolate leaves, 4-12 in. long (10-30 cm) is rough. Native to sandy to rocky mesic soils of floodplains, woodlands, thickets, ditches and prairies in eastern and central North America, Wingstem spreads by rhizomes and self-seeds extravagantly, forming colonies over time. It is best suited as a background planting in a native plant garden or wildflower meadow. A good food source for insects and birds, it is not favored by deer.
The Asteraceae (aster family) contains in excess of 1600 genera, and 25,000 species from around the world, and as such it is the largest dicotyledonous family i.e. those bearing two seed leaves. Most species are annual or perennial herbs or shrubs, but the family also contains trees, epiphytes and aquatics. This one, Verbesina alternifolia, is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial from eastern North America, where it grows in woods, meadows and thickets and along stream margins. The erect, winged stems, for which it has earned the common name wingstem, have alternate leaves, hence the specific name alternifolia, and the genus takes its name from the similarity of the plant to Verbena. In late summer it produces panicles of brilliant yellow flowers with up to eight ray florets which surround the central disc of many small flowers. (Source:www.botanic.cam.ac.uk)