Fleabanes and the Like

Another one of those large flower groups that prove troublesome to those of us who haven’t learned to key out plants.

These are some of the first flowers we see in spring, but like so many of the native plants, they know how to take advantage of precipitation; our May and early June snowstorms encouraged them to keep blooming.

All pictured here have dime-sized flowers, and in places they are flowering with great enthusiasm.

The most common fleabane up here enthusiastically throws runners across bare ground.

The plants above are exercising their spreading habit near one of the gates in the horse pasture, where we’ve been mowing to deter a mixed population of kochia and lamb’s quarters. We use the string trimmer to selectively hit the weeds when they’re six or seven inches tall, leaving other plants to set seed. Both kochia and lamb’s quarters are annuals, so pulling them would be the ideal method, and I do that too, but since this is in an area we see on a daily basis, we can hammer the whole population in a few minutes as needed, minimizing how much these weeds re-seed. They are steadily losing ground as the native plants and grasses move back in: what was a sacrifice zone in the pasture is recovering. Those little runners are very talented at catching grass seed, which helps the re-vegetation process, too.

A different species forms discrete clumps:


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3 Responses to Fleabanes and the Like

  1. Kayann says:

    I’m glad to see you call this fleabane too. We have a lot in our yard beneath the pine trees and I believe it came to us via pine chips from a friend’s tree. I’ve also seen it called cutleaf daisy, or erigeron compositas in my flower book. Maybe that’s the clumpy kind?

    • Andrea Jones says:

      Kayann, I’m sending myself back to school on these ones, but definitive IDs for any given plant probably require an expert. The Southwest Colorado Wildflowers website cheerfully notes that there are 173 species of Erigeron in the US, which can be annual, biennial or perennial. I tried to pin down some names for the post and only got more befuddled; the trailing variety seems most likely to be Erigeron flagellaris (common names include whiplash, spreading, and trailing fleabane OR daisy), but there’s also an Erigeron divergens and I think I came across one other binomial for a spreading variety before I gave up.

      If you have an abundance of time to piddle away, Dr. Mary Dubler’s Wildflowers of Colorado website is a really nice visual dictionary: names and images only, but with a name I’ve been able to go back to my field guides and/or other websites; often it’s a “Nope, not that” which is unsatisfying but useful.

      Regarding fleabane vs. daisy, my go-to field guide is Plants of the Rocky Mountains (Lone Pine; user-friendly and covers more than just wildflowers), and it gives the common name of Erigeron compositus as “Cut-leaved fleabane.” Let’s face it: “fleabane” sounds a lot more fun than “daisy.”

      • Kayann says:

        Wow! I had no idea so many varieties were around. I’m with you on “fleabane” as more fun than “daisy” so I’m going with that! Since these little charmers really spread, I’m happy to know more about them. Plus, it’s cool to have them in common with your pasture!

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