Revisiting The Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot)

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-1.

Hello everyone! I hope this post finds you well. I have been watching the Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) under the persimmon tree in the back of the farm all summer. Waiting for flowers can be a pain…

I found my first Leafy Elephant’s Foot on a friend’s mother’s farm while herding cattle in 2019.

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 10-12-21, #843-9.

Then, last October 12, I found a single plant in the south hayfield. I wasn’t quite sure what it was at first because the leaves were a maroonish color since it was in full sun. The flowers were wilted but the leaves did have a suspicious shape. The three leafy bracts surrounding the flowers were also a clue. I found it twice, but the day I went to mark the spot I couldn’t find it!

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) at 37″ tall on 10-25-21, #852-4.

Then, on October 25 (after an “F”), I found a small colony behind pond #2 in the back of the farm. They still had a few leaves but the flowers had run their course. I measured the plants at 37″ tall. Ummm… I did mark the spot with an electric fence post.

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 4-27-22, #874-1.

I was glad when they started coming up this spring.

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 6-26-22, #896-18.

They had grown quite a bit by the time I took the above photo on June 26. But, so were the weeds and brush around them…

THEN… LO AND BEHOLD!!!

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) under the persimmon tree on 7-9-22, #898-1.

On July 9 while looking at the persimmon tree, I found another small colony. I was happy about that! This one is maybe 100′ or so from the patch behind the pond and is very easy to get to.

By July 28 the flowering stems were getting taller but it was still a ways to go before the flowers emerge… GEEZ!

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-8-22, #903-8.

I went back to check on them a little after 7 PM on August 8 and there were a few flowers but they were closed. It was a “what the heck” moment!

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-19-22, #905-1.

I was busy for a while and didn’t get to go back and check on their progress until 6 PM on August 19. WOW! There were A LOT of flowers, but they were all kind of closed and wilted… GEEZ! I did some reading and found out their flowers only last a day. I think it is more like half a day!

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-1.

I decided I would go check earlier in the day, so on August 20, I went back at around 12:30. BINGO! Well, perhaps a little earlier would have even been better…

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-2.

So, you may wonder what is so special about the flowers of the Leafy Elephant’s Foot… Well, let’s have a closer look…

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-3.

The above photo is two flowers, but I need to try to find one I can separate it a little without dissecting it…

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-5.

I tried a few, but they didn’t cooperate very well without holding them. With the camera in one hand and the magnifying glass in the other, I couldn’t very well hold the flower at the same time. Finally, one paid attention somewhat.

The complicated part is explaining what is going on… First, you have three leafy bracts that surround a cluster of involucral bracts. Each involucral bract produces 2 sets of 2 phyllaries from which (typically) 4 flowers emerge. The flowers produce 5-lobed corollas (petals) that are positioned to one side of the flower. The flowers grow close together giving the appearance of a single four-petaled flower with 20 lobes. Luckily, all four flowers bloom the same day… Since there are quite a few bracts, blooming will continue through sometime in October.

The Missouri Plants website gives a very good technical description, but it can leave you wondering what you read. I found the write-up by Sid Vogelpohl from the Arkansas Native Plant Society to be very helpful.

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-7.

Of course, I have to talk about the leaves because the flowers only help partially identify the species. If you run across a plant with large spatulate leaves before it flowers, you may have found an Elephantopus carolinianus

Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot) on 8-20-22, #906-8.

It also has VERY hairy stems…

The next few posts will be about a couple of species I found south of the barn and my confusing adventure along the fence in the south pasture. Four new species right under my nose in one day!

Until then, be safe, stay positive, and always be thankful. Temps are cooling off and it is a great time to GET DIRTY!

10 comments on “Revisiting The Elephantopus carolinianus (Leafy Elephant’s Foot)

  1. pixydeb says:

    Hi Lonnie – hope you are keeping well 🙂that is a small but very interesting little flower- beautiful too.
    Do you know Why it is called elephants foot ? Am I missing something?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Debbie! I am doing well. How about you? The name “Elephantopus” has to do with an elephant’s foot, but it was not named after this species. Apparently, the first species named (lectotype) was Elephantopus scaber (Linnaeus). Even though a single leaf doesn’t resemble an elephant’s foot, the leaves of E. scaber lay flat on the ground and form a round-shaped rosette, perhaps resembling an elephant’s foot to the original explorer that named the plant (whoever that actually was).

      https://www.efloraofgandhinagar.in/plant-details.php?cateUrl=herb&plantUrl=elephantopus-scaber

      I read on another website it has to do with the “head” of involucral bracts which doesn’t resemble an elephant’s foot either. Hmmm…

      Anyway, I hope you are doing well and had a great summer. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  2. susurrus says:

    What a fascinating plant. The flowers somehow remind me of baseball gloves, but I dare say that’s because I don’t know the slightest thing about baseball. Your story about stalking them made me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Susan! They are very unusual. With the petals kind of curved upward, they kind of do resemble a baseball glove. 🙂 Sometimes I make myself laugh when I have to keep going back to check out a plant in the back of the farm. I always find a lot of other plants (and insects) to photograph on the way. I really like it when I find something new. Take care and thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely plant and beautiful blossoms, regardless of how it got its name! I walked through a large greenspace with Molly this morning and saw a few flowering plants that I had never noticed before. I would have loved to get photos, but it is almost impossible to get a photo of anything with a big puppy bouncing around on her leash.

    Liked by 1 person

Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.