Robin’s Plantain

Erigeron pulchellus

Robin's Plantain
Robin’s Plantain
The hairy leaves of Robin's Plantain
The hairy leaves of Robin’s Plantain

For me, this early-flowering beauty was first found in April, at my friend’s country house in Shawsville, Virginia.  More recently, I found it in Wildwood Park in Radford, growing right next to Hoary Pucoon. The genus of the plant, Erigeron, will tell you it is a “fleabane”, although this one is shorter, and I think showier, than other common fleabanes.  The 1-inch wide, aster-like flowers rise up on stout stems from a base of soft, hairy leaves.  The leaves are oblong to round, with gently rounded teeth.

Robin's Plantain: the hairy nature of the plant earned it the name
Robin’s Plantain: the hairy nature of the plant earned it the name “early old man”

Like all asters, the flowers of Robin’s plaintain are actually composites of ray and disk flowers.  The disk flowers are bright yellow and form a flat center.  The ray flowers can be whitish, as they are in these pictures, or violet-bluish. There are 50-100 ray flowers on each head.

Robin’s plantain grows in woods and meadows, and along roadsides and streams. It spreads by runners and can form small colonies in one area.  Erigeron can be roughly translated to mean “early old man”, referring to the time of year the when the plants flower (early in the season)  and the “gray hair” or wooly nature of the leaves.

Some say that fleabanes were used by colonists to rid the house of fleas and other insect pests, hence the name. Others say that the plants got their name from the fact that the seeds are so small, they look like fleas.  No matter–enjoy them! Bloom time is April-June.

As always, click on a photo:

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