Erigeron pulchellus Michx.
April to June N Family: Asteraceae
Flower: The flower is a center of yellow tube flowers surrounded by numerous white to lavender ray flowers. The entire inflorescence is close to two inches across. There are up to five on half to one inch stalks at the tip of the stem. There is a cup of green, hairy bracts under each inflorescence.
Leaf: The basal leaves are green, egg-shaped, with short petioles. They are covered with short hairs. There is a single midvein. The few stem leaves are sessile, covered with long hairs and narrower than the basal leaves.
Stem: A single, hairy, green stem can reach two feet tall. The hairs are long and spreading.
Root: There is a perennial fibrous root system with rhizomes.
Habitat: This plant forms small colonies in open woods on hillsides, pastures, ledges and bluffs.
Although Robin’s Plantain is called a plantain, it isn’t. this name probably refers to the shape of the basal leaves which resemble those of broad-leaved plantain. Instead Robin’s Plantain is a fleabane and member of the aster family.
The relationship to the aster family is obvious with a close look at the flower. It is a typical aster type with densely packed tube flowers in the center and ray flowers around the disk. The tube flowers open in rings from the outside toward the inside. They are a yellow tube with a pistil sticking out. The stamens are fused to the pistil.
Fleabanes tend to have thinner ray flowers than other asters. Each inflorescence has a double or triple row of ray flowers. This gives a lacy look to the inflorescence.
There are several fleabanes in Dent County. Most are much smaller. Philadelphia fleabane is similar. The main ways to identify Robin’s Plantain are the long hairs on the stem, dense hair covering on the leaves and basal leaves. This plant tends to form colonies because of the rhizomes.
The ray flowers are mostly white. They can be lavender or even lavender at the base and white on the ends. Since several other white flowers bloom at the same time, Robin’s Plantain can get overlooked.
I find the plants on a hillside in woods about twenty-five feet from a pasture. A single plant bloomed the first year. There is now a small colony spreading out from the base of the oak tree where the first one grew.