Thursday, August 6, 2009


This is Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia, one of the plants adding yellow to the prairie landscape. Everything about this plant is interesting.

The common name comes from these fin-like appendages on the stem. This particular stem is dark purple, making an interesting contrast with the lime green wings.

The wings are quite variable. They may be smooth and straight or wavy and convoluted.

The plants also show considerable variation. Here we have a green stemmed plant with broad pale leaves growing next to a purple stemmed plant with blue tinted narrow leaves.

Wingstem is one of the tall plants that do best in full sun and deep rich soil. Typical plant height is 7 to 8 feet, but some do grow taller.

The seeds are flattened disks with a fringed collar. They are great for those who like to collect and scatter seed. They are large and easily gathered, but sometimes the spines around the edge are strong enough to penetrate the skin and you end up with tiny little black specks imbedded in your finger tips.

Many insects visit these flowers. Honeybees are particularly attracted to this nectar source.

Butterflies, like this Spring Azure, are also frequent visitors.

Little yellow spiders are often found hiding in the flower clusters. This spider has carried its catch beneath a nearby leaf.

There were several of these bugs prowling around on undeveloped seed heads. They were probing for something between the tiny flower buds.

A leaf hopper imitating a thorn. This mimicry would probably be more effective on a plant that actually had thorns.

This insect seems to be some type of bagworm. It was hanging below this seed cluster and I thought it was some dead part of the flower. While I was taking the picture, the insect began to move and crawled to the top of the cluster. Plants are the framework of wide ranging ecological systems. When you stop to admire the flowers, give some time to searching the plant for those animals that call it home.


  1. ...that is an interesting wildflower! I want to see those little fins. Now I know what to look for.

  2. I have gathered seed--any idea on best way to plant? Stratification?

    1. I have had greatest success by planting in the late fall. I've also been somewhat successful when planting in early spring after storing seed in a cool, dry place. Seed depth between a quarter and an eighth of an inch worked best for me. Good Luck.