Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
A plant that has been collected in nearly every county in North Dakota, Manyflower fleabane occurs from Wisconsin to Alaska south to Colorado and Utah at elevations up to 10,000 ft.
Manyflower fleabane is biennial or weakly perennial from a simple persistent base and fibrous roots. These slightly-hairy plants are usually about 10-20 inches tall and have multiple stems. The base of the stem bears most of the leaves. These are spear-shaped, about 2-3 inches long, and are sparingly toothed at the tips. Each stem bears 2-5 flower heads that are usually about 3/4 to 1-inch wide. The 125 to 175 ray flowers on each head are pale blue or pink, but sometimes white. The many small disc flowers are yellow. At maturity, the tiny achenes ("seeds") are hairy and bear a double row of longer bristles.
Look for manyflower fleabane from June through July on native grassland exclusive of hilltops and wet meadows. More plants seem to occur on pastures that are not severely grazed. Some Erigerons are purported to drive away fleas, relieve toothache, and cure various diseases, but I could find no references to any economic values for the species discussed here. This is true for many Great Plains plants whose history of use by native peoples has been lost.
Manyflower fleabane is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), an immense group containing over 15,000 species worldwide. The family contains edible species such as lettuce and salsify, the ornamentals chrysanthemum and zinnia, and noxious weeds such as thistles and cockleburs. The generic name Erigeron stems from the Greek eri, "early" and geron "old man," in reference to early-flowering plants with a hoary appearance. The specific epithet glabellus means "smoothish" in botanical Latin. The species was first described for science in 1818 by Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859). He visited what now is North Dakota in 1811.