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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Low Fleabane (Erigeron pumilus)


Found mostly in western North Dakota but once collected in Grand Forks County, low fleabane ranges west to British Columbia and south to Colorado and California at elevations below 8,000 ft.

Low fleabane is perennial from a taproot and branched caudex (tough stem base or rootcrown). These hairy plants are seldom over 10 inches tall and may be slightly sticky, especially near the base of the flower heads that may be solitary or numerous. Flower heads are about an inch wide and consist of many yellow disc flowers surrounded by 50-100 white ray flowers. Fruits are achenes, as in the dandelion.

Look for low fleabane from May through August on dry native prairie. Grazing pressure seems to have little effect on the abundance of this plant in western North Dakota. 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 low fleabane. This is true for many Great Plains plants whose history of use by native peoples has been lost.

Low 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 lettuces and salsify, ornamentals like chrysanthemums and zinnias, and noxious weeds like 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 pumilus means "dwarf" in botanical Latin. Low fleabane was described for science by the famous English-American explorer, botanist, and ornithologist Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859) in his Genera of North American Plants published in 1818.


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