Carolina elephantsfoot (Elephantopus carolinianus)
The common name alludes to the shape of the stem leaves, but North
American species do not necessarily resemble an elephant's foot.
Elephantopus flexuosus Raf.
Elephantopus violaceus Sch. Bip.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently acceptaed name for Carolina elephantsfoot
is Elephantopus carolinianus Raeusch. From Greek elephantos "elephant"
and pous "foot". Although a member of the composite family, the flowers
of elephant's foot are not daisy-like in appearance because each flower
head contains only disc flowers. Similar in appearance and closely related
to the ironweeds (Vernonia).
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Carolina elephantsfoot is a native, herbaceous, perennial plant that
is either erect or ascending with generally one, occasionally 2 or more
stems. It reaches a height of from 1 to 3 feet. Stems variously hairy to
nearly non-hairy (with age), usually branched above with the branches
Leaves: There are at least four leaf nodes on the stem before the first of
several oose branches. Leaves are mostly basal, otherwise alternate, sim-
ple, ovate to lanceolate or braodly elliptic, 4/5 to 8+ inches long, 1.2 to
3.6 inches wide. Leaf surfaces sparsely hairy with margins scalloped to
shallowly toothed. Leaf tip pointed or tapering-pointed. The basal leaves
often absent at flowering with base long-tapering to short-stalk while up-
per leaves progressively reduced, attached to stem.
Flowers: Carolina elephantsfoot has headlike flower clusters (arranged in
two or more compact heads), small, dense, 2/5 to 1 inch across, with term-
inating branch tips (when in full bloom, an entire inflorescence may be
mistaken for a large, single bloom). There are subtending bracts 1-3, leaf-
like, heart-shaped, equaling or exceeding cluster, somewhat folded length-
wise with tips pointed. The involucre is cylindric, 3/10 to 2/5 inch long
with involcural bracts 1/4 to 2/5 inch long, in 4 opposite pairs, outer 2 pairs
shorter than inner. The base is straw- colored; with green tips, minutely re-
sin-dotted, tapering to points. There are ray florets; disk florets 1/4 to 1/3
inch long, irregularly and deeply 5- lobed, white, white/pink to lavender
Fruit/Seeds: The fruit is a small, cylindrical, dry, 1/6 to 1/5 inch long, 8-
10-ribbed, brown, pubescent, tipped by whorl of 5-8 bristles about 1/5
inch long, enclosing a small seed.
Roots: Carolina elephantsfoot has a fibrous root system.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Carolina elephantsfoot propogates it-
self by reseeding.
HABITAT TYPES: Moist wooded areas particularly in lower areas,
bases of bluffs, stream banks.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Carolina elephantsfoot can be found in
open or shaded moist sites, often on sandy soils.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Flowering period is from mid to late
summer (August to September).
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Carolina elephantsfoot is naturally dis-
tributed from Florida to the Mid-Atlantic states and extends westward
into the Ohio Valley and lower Plains states. It does not naturally occur
in the New England states, upper Great Plains, the extreme southwest,
Rocky Mountain states, or the far western and northwestern Pacific
states. It has not been recorded in any province of Canada.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The fauna associations for Carolina
elephantsfoot are not fully understood; however, in-field observations
indicate it does attract butterflies.
Perhaps best grown in native plant gardens, meadows and woodland gar-
dens. Marginal ornamental attributes for perennial borders. Large lower
eaves can form a nice ground cover if plants are massed.
Crooked Run Valley