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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

Ovalleaf Golden Alexanders (Zizea aptera)


A mid-May bloomer that reaches best development in June, ovalleaf golden alexanders is a plant of northern and eastern North Dakota. The overall distribution of the plant is from New York to British Columbia south to Nevada and Georgia.

Ovalleaf golden alexanders is perennial from thick roots. Plants usually are about two feet tall. Lower leaves are 8 inches long, with long petioles and an oval blade with rounded teeth. Upper leaves are much smaller and divided into three lance-shaped segments. Hundreds of minute yellow flowers are clustered into umbels about 2-3 inches in diameter. A typical plant will have 5 or 6 such umbels. Seeds resemble those of common dill, but are much smaller.

Look for ovalleaf golden alexanders in native low prairie or coulee bottoms. Plants are most abundant under light grazing, likely because soils are moister in that situation. There are no known economic uses for the plant.

The plant is a member of the parsley family (Apiaceae) which contains the carrot, dill, and celery. The genus Zizea was named by the German botanist Wilhelm Koch (1771-1849) in honor of Johann Baptist Ziz (1779-1829), a Rhenish botanist. There are only three species of Zizea, all in North America. Aptera means "without wings" in botanical Latin, in reference to the seeds. Ovalleaf golden alexanders was first described by the preeminent American botanist Asa Gray (1810-1888) and later (1939) given its current name by the famous Harvard botanist and author of Gray's Manual of Botany, Merritt Fernald (1873-1950).


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