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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Golden Crownbeard (Verbesina encelioides)

Until its discovery in Theodore Roosevelt Park in 1990, the nearest known occurrence of golden crownbeard to North Dakota was in extreme southeastern South Dakota. Elsewhere, the plant ranges south to northern California, Mexico, and North Carolina at elevations under 9,000 ft.

Golden crownbeard is a taprooted annual up to three feet tall. Plants are grayish-green from a covering of stiff hairs. The ovate, alternate leaves are about 2-1/2 inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Dozens of 1-1/2-inch wide flower heads with yellow disc and ray flowers are borne in an open inflorescence. At maturity, the achenes (seeds) are winged.

Look for golden crownbeard from July through September on open sites in the badlands. I have no information on the value of this plant for livestock, but expect it would be small. The Hopi are said to have used the plant to relieve the symptoms of spider bites. Other members of this genus were used for fevers and their talc-like ashes served to protect the fingers of those spinning fibers for fabrics and thread.

Verbesina is a genus in the sunflower family (Asteraceae). This family contains over 15,000 species and is one of the largest plant families in the world and the largest in North Dakota. The family is characterized by the composite arrangement of many flowers into single heads as in the sunflower. Aster means "star" in Greek, in reference to the radiate arrangement of the flowers in the heads. The generic name is thought to be either a corruption of another plant genus, Verbena, or a printers error for Forbesina. Whatever, there are about 60 species of Verbesina, chiefly found in the warmer parts of the New World. The specific epithet encelioides means "resembling Enselia (another plant) in botanical Latin. Authorship of the species is complex. The plant was first described for science under another genus by the Spanish botanist Antonio Jose Cavanilles (1745-1804). Later, George Bentham (1800-1884) and Sir. J. D. Hooker (1817-1911) placed the plant in its currently accepted taxonomic position. However, the name was not officially published until 1876 when the United States' premier botanist, Asa Gray (1810-1888), listed it in his section of Botany of California.

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