wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia)
Actinomeris alternifolia (L.) DC.
Ridan alternifolia (L.) Britton
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for wingstem is
Verbesina alternifolia (L.) Britton ex Kearney.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: Wingstem is a native perennial plant is 3-8' tall, multiply from base
and branching above, and unbranched. The central stem is usually winged,
with scattered white hairs between the ridges.
Leaves: The alternate leaves are up to 10" long and 2½" across. They are
lanceolate to narrowly ovate and rather coarse-looking, with a rough tex-
ture above, less rough below. The margin of each leaf is smooth or slight-
ly serrated, and there are white hairs along the major veins on the under-
side. The leaf base tapers, extending down stem to form wings. Leaves
dark green above, lighter green below.
Flowers: At the apex of the plant, in terminal clusters, are numerous
daisy-like composite flowers with a ragged appearance. Each flower is
about 1-2" across, and has 2-10 yellow ray florets that droop downward.
The greenish yellow disk tubulate florets are prominent and numerous,
projecting outward from the center like a pin-cushion with thick needles.
Disk florets become round with age. Sometimes the flowers have a mild
Fruit/Seeds: The achenes are broad, flat, and winged, each with two slend-
er awns; they are distributed to some extent by the wind.
Roots: The root system produces long rhizomes, often causing the forma-
tion of vegetative colonies.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Wingstem propogates itself by reseeding
and, to a limited extend, by vegetative expansion through rhizome spread.
HABITAT TYPES: Habitats include moist prairies, moist meadows near
rivers and woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, floodplain
forests, areas adjacent to woodland paths, thickets, savannas, partially
shaded seeps, partially shaded areas along rivers, pastures, abandoned
fields, and roadside ditches. Wingsem is strongly associated with disturb-
ed habitats that are adjacent or near sources of moisture.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Wingstem prefers full sun to light shade
and moist to mesic conditions. Wingstem typically grows in fertile soil
that is high in organic matter. It is often found along woodland and stream
margins, where adequate moisture can be ensured. The lower leaves may
fall off the plant during hot dry weather, particularly in sunnier and drier
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period occurs from late
summer to early fall (August-September), and lasts about 1-1½ months.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Wingstem naturally occurs from Florida
north to New York, but generally not further north into the New England
states (except Rhode Island). Wingstem extends west through the Ohio
Valley and Gulf states into Texas and then north to Iowa and Nebraska. It
does not naturally occur in the upper Plains states, southwestern states be-
yond Texas, Rocky Mountain states, for the far western and north-west-
ern Pacific coast states. It has been reported occurring only in Ontario,
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: The flowers are visited primarily by long-
tongued bees, especially bumblebees. Some short-tongued bees, butterflies,
and skippers also visit the flowers; the long tubes of the disk florets make
the nectar inaccessible to many insects with shorter tongues, such as flies
and wasps. The caterpillars of the butterfly Chlosyne nycteis (silvery check-
erspot) feed on the foliage, while the caterpillars of Basilodes pepita (gold
moth) feed on the flowers and developing seeds The caterpillars of another
moth, Cremastobombycia ignota, are leaf-miners. Other insects that feed
on wingstem include the leaf beetle Brachypnoea clypealis, the aphids
Uroleucon ambrosiae and Uroleucon rurale, Acrosternum hilaris (green
stink bug), and other polyphagous stink bugs. Because of the bitterness
of its leaves, wingstem isn't consumed by most mammals.
Crooked Run Valley