Robin’s Plantain

Erigeron pulchellus

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

I first discovered this early-blooming, daisy-like wildflower at my friend’s country house in Shawsville, Virginia. Later, I found it growing in early May in Wildwood Park (Radford), and at the entrance to Pandapas Pond in the Jefferson National Forest. Each time I was really struck by how beautiful it is. See if you agree!

The genus of this aster, Erigeron, will tell you it is a “fleabane”, although this one is showier than other common fleabanes.  The 1-inch wide flowers rise up on stout, hairy 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 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 several of 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.

The genus name, 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–especially Robin’s Plantain! It’s a beauty! Bloom time is April-June.

As always, click on a photo:

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