Plants of the Prairie: Fleabane

Scientific Name: Erigeron annuus, Erigeron philadelphicus and Erigeron strigosus

While there are almost 200 species of fleabane in North America, three types are most common here in Wisconsin: Common (Erigeron annuus), Philadelphia (Erigeron philadelphicus and this kind, Eastern Daisy (Erigeron strigosus). While it is difficult to tell varieties apart, I believe that the varieties in the prairie are Eastern Daisy and Philadelphia.

Fleabane is a pioneer species, which means that it thrives in an environment that has been highly disturbed. Pioneer species can sometimes mimic the behavior of, and be mistaken for, invasive species because they can be so successful in an area that in out of balance. That’s a fancy way of saying they sometimes act and look like a weed when they are actually doing very important work getting an area ready for pickier natives. Other examples of pioneer species that you might be familiar with are aspens and fireweed.

Pollinators love fleabane, so in addition to getting the soil ready for other natives, they provide a good source of nectar.

Traditionally, Fleabane was used as an eyewash, an astringent, a mild stimulant and a treatment for sore throats, inflamation and menstural issues.

You can eat the leaves and flowers, but they are said to be bitter and can be hairy depending on the variety you choose. I’ll give it a try one of these days and report back.

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