Flower of the Day: Wingstem

Verbesina alternifolia (formerly Actinomeris alternifolia); Asteraceae (aster family)


Like its close relative tall coneflower (fotd 8/21), wingstem has a central cone of disc flowers surrounded by reflexed ray flowers (petals).  The cone looks quite different, though.

20140818-DSC_0127-2Another difference between the two species is the one that gives this plant its common name.  Look closely at a stem and you’ll see that it’s lined with leaf tissue.  This is a not uncommon occurrence with petioles (the leaf stem), but much less common with a plant’s main stem.


Wingstem grows very tall and loves riverbanks and moist places, just like tall coneflower, but blooms a bit later.  It can be found through much of the eastern and midwestern US.

Here’s a closeup of the disc flowers:


Flower of the Day: Tall Coneflower

aka cut-leaf coneflower; Rudbeckia laciniata; Asteraceae (aster family)


In August the Potomac downstream of Carderock is lined with tall flowering plants by the thousands.  Halberd-leaved rose mallow (fotd 8/7) is still going strong, though starting to wane, while thin-leaf sunflower (fotd 8/19), tall coneflower, and large-flowered leafcup (come back tomorrow to read about that one) are dominating the view.  And I do mean dominating, as these plants can grow to eight feet in height, and tend to form large colonies through rooting.

Flowers in the aster family (formerly known as the composite family, Compositae) are fascinating.   What appear to be petals are actually individual flowers, known as rays; the central portion of the head is comprised of individual disc flowers.  In some composite family flowers, like the Eupatorium species I wrote about last week, only disc flowers are present.  In others, like rattlesnake weed (fotd 5/31) and hairy hawkweed (come back the day after tomorrow), there are only ray flowers.

The coneflowers (Rudbeckia and Echinacea species) are easily distinguished from the sunflowers (Helianthus species, and many others) by the reflexed ray flowers and the more-or-less spherical shape of the disc.

There are 22 species of Rudbeckia in the US, four of which are found in this area, including Maryland’s state flower, the black-eyed Susan (R. hirta).  Tall coneflower is threatened in Rhode Island.