Sweet Everlastingor

Sweet Everlastingor

Sweet Everlasting

Sweet Everlasting flower heads resemble Pussytoes (Antennaria spp.), which bloom in spring. Another similar species is Clammy Cudweed (Pseudognaphalium macounii), which has broader, clasping leaves and is found only in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) is also similar, but has more globular flower heads with more distinct central flower parts, and are in more flat-topped clusters. Latin name Gnaphalium obtusifolium is used for Sweet Everlasting in some references, such as the Newcomb and Peterson field guides, but is now outdated.


This curious plant has woolly foliage and flowerheads that resemble those of Antennaria spp. (Pussytoes), Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly Everlasting), Gamochaeta purpurea. (Early Cudweed), and some other members of the Aster family. Sweet Everlasting is more tall than Pussytoes and Early Cudweed, and its truncate-conical flowerheads are more narrow than the button-like flowerheads of Pearly Everlasting. There are other Pseudognaphalium spp. in the United States that are quite similar in appearance to Sweet Everlasting, but they have not been observed in Illinois. However, some of these species have been found in neighboring Indiana and other states further to the east. Sweet Everlasting's older scientific name is Gnaphalium obtusifolium (by which it is still commonly referred), but it has been reassigned to the genus Pseudognaphalium.The radially symmetrical flowers of the sweet everlasting are small, measuring 6 mm. in width. The white or pale yellow, tapered, overlapping petals are several and form a tightly, packed rounded cylinder that is slightly open at the tip, exposing and dull yellow, bristled anther ring. The bracts are petal-like and contribute to the cylindrical structure of the bloom. Flowers are arranged in sparse, branched clusters atop the terminal shoot.

Sweet everlasting is a medium-sized plant that measures 30-60 cm. in height and is most easily identified by its cluster of small, white or pale yellow, rayless flowers. The white bloom of the sweet everlasting forms a tightly packed, rounded-cylindrical structure that is arranged in a sparse, branched cluster atop the terminal shoot of a slender, green, cottony stem. Leaves are long, needle-like, and are covered in a whitish down on their underside.The American lady butterfly (Vanessa virginiensis) uses sweet everlasting and its close relatives as caterpillar food plants. Females lay eggs (usually singly) on the leaves of the plant, and upon hatching, the caterpillar feeds on the leaves, safe inside a tent it builds of silk and the leaves of the plant. American lady caterpillars are typically black with yellowish crossbands, black, branching spines, and white spots on the sides of the abdominal segments. If you see one chewing on a sweet everlasting plant, you’ll know what it is! (Source: mdc.mo.gov)



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