Wingstem, Yellow Ironweed
Synonyms of Verbesina alternifolia (19) (Updated on 12-2-22 from Plants of the World Online): Actinomeris alternifolia DC. (1836), Actinomeris alternifolia var. alba (Michx.) DC. (1836), Actinomeris oppositifolia Fresen. (1836), Actinomeris procera Steud. (1840), Actinomeris squarrosa Nutt. (1818), Actinomeris squarrosa var. alba (Michx.) Nutt. (1818), Actinomeris squarrosa var. alternifolia (L.) Torr. & A.Gray (1842)(nom. superfl.), Actinomeris squarrosa var. flava Elliott (1823), Actinomeris squarrosa var. oppositifolia (Fresen.) Torr. & A.Gray (1842), Coreopsis acuta Pursh (1813), Coreopsis alternifolia L. (1753), Coreopsis procera Aiton (1789), Pterophyton alternifolium Cass. (1826), Pterophyton procerum Cass. (1826), Ridan alternifolia (L.) Kuntze (1891), Ridan alternifolia var. oppositifolia Farw. (1923), Verbesina coreopsis Michx. (1803), Verbesina coreopsis var. alba Michx. (1803), Verbesina coreopsis var. lutea Michx. (1803). For some reason, Peramibus acutus Raf. (1820)
Verbesina alternifolia (L.) Britton ex Kearney is the accepted scientific name for this species. It was listed as such by Thomas Henry Kearney in Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club (New York) in 1893. He mentions Nathaniel Lord Britton as naming the species. This species was first named Coreopsis alternifolia by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
The genus, Verbesina L., was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.
As of 12-2-22 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online by Kew lists 350 accepted species in the Verbesina genus. It is a member of the plant family Asteraceae with 1,689 genera. These figures could change as updates are made on POWO. The number of genera in the family fluctuates quite often.
The above distribution map for Verbesina alternifolia is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple is where it has been introduced. The map on the USDA Plants Database for the United States and Canada is the same.
The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are updated as members post new observations.
THERE ARE SEVERAL LINKS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE FOR FURTHER READING AND TO HELP WITH A BETTER POSITIVE ID.
I found a nice colony of Verbesina alternifolia (Wingstem) on a friend’s farm on September 12 in 2019. There aren’t any of this species growing on my farm, but I do have Verbesina virginica (White Crownbeard, Frostweed). Both have winged stems which are always a great indicator you have found a species of Verbesina. I found another colony in the woods on another friend’s farm in May of 2020 but they weren’t flowering so I am not 100% sure which species the plants were. I Haven’t gone back to that neck of the woods since 2020.
Missouri Plants includes three species of Verbesina in the state of Missouri. The only one I haven’t seen is Vesbesina helianthoides (Yellow Crownbeard) which flowers from May-October. Verbesina alternifolia and Vesbesina virginica flowers August-October.
Verbesina alternifolia is a perennial wildflower that is found throughout Missouri. According to the map, it can be found from Texas to Nebraska, over to Iowa then up into Canada, all across the eastern part of the U.S and down to Florida. It may be common in some states and not so common in others. The species can be identified by its oddly drooping ray florets and winged stems (although some plants may not have winged stems).
This species enjoys growing in full sun to light shade in fertile soil with organic matter, although it is adaptable. It has been found in sandy and rocky soil as well. The plants I found on a friends farm was more or less in a fairly shady area, maybe dappled shade with periods of complete shade. They prefer area with an adequate supply of moisture like near stream and river banks, margins of ponds, low woodland areas, bottomlands, valleys, pastures, and the like.
The main stem branches out at the top where panicles of 8-25 or more flowerheads put on their show. In the plant family Asteraceae, the flowers are called heads… It gets complicated…
At the base of the flowerhead is a saucer-shaped involucre (3/8-9/16” diameter) with 8-12 bracts (phyllaries). The involucral bracts are approximately 1/8-5/16 long, that are described as being pubescent (hairy), narrowly lanceolate, lanceolate or narrowly oblanceolate, and somewhat reflexed during flowering.
The flowerheads are approximately 1-2” across when open and consists of 2-10 sterile reflexed yellow ray florets and 30 or more (up to 80) fertile disc florets. Sound simple? The ray florets are fairly simple being 3/8 to 1” long, drooping downward, and sometimes having a notch at the tip. The disc florets, however, are more complicated. They consist of a tubular greenish yellow corolla approximately 1/8-3/16” long, have five lobes, and slightly exerted curling stigmas (pollen-receptive surface of a carpel (a simple pistil), 5 stamens with white filaments, and purple anthers. The stamens tightly compressed at first appearing as one, hideing the pistil. As the stamens emerge you can’t even see the pistil. Then, as the flower matures, the stamens wilt back revealing the pistil and the stigma splits and curls.
Flowers appear from August through October.
Plants grow to a height of 4’ to around 8’ tall (including the inflorescence) in optimal conditions. Stems grow from a fibrous, slightly root system often with strong rhizomes. Stems can be single or multiple from the base but they are unbranched except for near the apex where the inflorescence appears. Stems can be winged, partial winged (below the midpoint), or have no wings at all. The stems are medium green or purplish, green with purplish leaf nodes, and/or have purple steaks. Stems are sparsely to moderately pubescent with short hairs, especially toward the top, or may even be glabrous (not hairy).
The leaves grow in an alternate pattern along the stems and in the inflorescent, while the lower leaves could be opposite. The leaves are lanceolate to narrowly ovate and grow to about 10” long x 2 1/2” wide. They taper to a sharply pointed tip, margins coarsely to finely toothed (at least from the midpoint), tapering to a narrowly winged petiole-like base. The wings extend down the stem (decurrent) where the stems have wings. Hmmm… (similar with Verbesina virginica). If the stems aren’t winged, the wings of the leaves stop at the stem. The upper surface of the leaves are dark green and are rough in texture due to sparse to moderate, short, spreading pustular-based hairs. The undersides are lighter green and not as rough and have white hairs along the veins.
The above photo is the undersurface of a leaf.
As the flowers mature, the ovaries of the disc florets become fruit bearing the seed (achenes). The achenes are kind of flat, oblanceolate to broadly ovate, winged (sometimes not), with two short awns at the tip.
Long and short tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers visit the flowers. The length of the disc florets make it complicated for shorter tongues bees to feed on the nectar. Several insects and caterpillars feed on the leaves.
I go to my friends farm where these photos were taken quite often, but I haven’t been to the spot where I found the Verbesina alternifolia since 2019. I will try to remember to check in 2023. I beed more and better photos.
I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and in other areas. The farm is located in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 250 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the page). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing, and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a few horticulturalists I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.
I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at email@example.com. I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.
FOR FURTHER READING:
PLANTS OF THE WORLD ONLINE (GENUS/SPECIES)
INTERNATIONAL PLANT NAMES INDEX (GENUS/SPECIES)
FLORA OF NORTH AMERICA (GENUS/SPECIES)
USDA PLANTS DATABASE
IDENTIFYING WILDFLOWERS (ARTICLE ON DG)
MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-WEED ID GUIDE
ARKANSAS NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY
KANSAS WILDFLOWERS AND GRASSES
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY
LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER
FRIENDS OF THE WILDFLOWER GARDEN
MARYLAND BIODIVERSITY PROJECT
NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and can be hard to keep with. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂