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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Fetid Marigold (Dyssodia papposa)

Southwestern North Dakota is home to the fetid marigold. Elsewhere, the plant occurs from southern Ontario and western New York westward to Montana and western South America elevations up to 7,500 ft.

Fetid marigold is an ill-scented annual up to 20 inches tall, but most North Dakota specimens are less than a foot tall. Leaves are 1-2 inches long, mostly opposite, and pinnately divided into narrow lobes that are sometimes again divided. Leaves are mostly hairless, but are irregularly dotted with orange, sunken oil glands. Flower heads are bell-shaped and less than 1/2 inch wide. The few ray flowers are inconspicuous, but the 12-50 disc flowers are yellow. Mature achenes ("seeds") are about 1/8 inch long and bear a tuft of bristles.

Look for fetid marigold from July to September in prairie disturbed by digging animals or livestock trampling, and along roadsides. The strong odor of these plants likely discourages their consumption by livestock. This plant is weedy, and has spread beyond its original range. I found no mention of economic uses.

Fetid marigold is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Aster means "star" in Greek; the name is an allusion to the radiate arrangement of flowers into heads. These are often mistaken for a single flower by laypersons. The family contains over 15,000 species, more than in any other family in North Dakota as well as most countries in the North Temperate Zone.

The generic name Dyssodia was taken from the Greek for "disagreeable odor." The specific epithet papposa was used because of the conspicuous pappus, or tuft of bristles, on the achene. Fetid marigold was first described for science under a different genus by the French botanist Etienne Pierre Ventenat (1757-1808), and placed in its currently-accepted genus in 1891 by the eminent American botanist Albert Spear Hitchcock (1865-1935).

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