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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Iva Poverty Weed (Iva axillaris)

A drab native plant, Iva poverty weed is most common in western North Dakota, but has occasionally been collected as far east as Walsh and Barnes Counties. Elsewhere, plants range west to British Columbia and California and south to Nebraska and Wyoming at elevations under 7,500 ft.

Iva poverty weed is perennial from a network of creeping rootstocks. Plants are usually about 1-2 feet tall. Leaves are elliptic and 1-2 inches long. The greenish, inconspicuous flower heads lie close to the stem in the axils of the small upper leaves. Four or 5 bracts enclose the heads in a cup. Although only about 1/8 inch wide, each head has 5-8 female flowers (peripheral) and 8-20 male flowers (central). There are no ray flowers. Fruits are tiny achenes about 1/8 inch long.

Look for Iva poverty weed from July to September on dry native grassland, especially alkaline spots in heavily grazed pastures. A decoction of the plant was a favorite among several Amerindian tribes for stomach ache or cramps, and was especially recommended for children.

Iva poverty weed is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Aster means "star" in Greek, concerning the radiate arrangement of flowers in the heads. This is the largest plant family in North Dakota and most countries with temperate climates. The derivation of the generic name Iva is unknown. There are about 15 species in the genus; all are found in the Western Hemisphere. The specific epithet axillaris means "axillary" in botanical Latin. Iva poverty weed was described for science in 1814 by the eminent German-American botanist, Frederick Traugott Pursh (1774-1820). He was the first to publish on the many new plants collected by the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806.

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