Carolina Elephant’s Foot

Carolina Elephant’s Foot or Leafy Elephantfoot

Elephantopus carolinianus

elephantsfootTake a look at this late summer/early fall wildflower. It is a very unusual aster!

Notice how each stem is terminated by three leafy bracts and a cluster of tiny blossoms?

From a distance, it looks like each cluster is one circle of tiny white or lavender ray flowers, but upon close inspection you’ll see it is just the opposite. This aster has no ray flowers at all. The cluster you see is comprised of several disk flowers grouped together. The corolla of each disk has 5 thin lobes.

The large basal leaves, which may be absent, give the plant its name, Elephant’s Foot.  The leaves can grow up to 8 inches in length. There are also alternating stem leaves that clasp the tall pubescent flowering stem. The dark green, hairy leaves are roughly elliptical in shape.

Although these plants were photographed in North Carolina, this species is common in Virginia and in much of the Southeastern U.S. Bloom time is August through October in open woods.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. John Lindner says:

    Your hyperlink (“Read more…”) didn’t work, but your url did. Thanks for giving both.

    John John Lindner 3995 William Ct Charlottesville, VA 22903 Home: 434-296-5263 Mobile: 434-282-8965

  2. John Lindner says:

    A weird name for such a delicate flower. With three leaves and three blooms on each stem, it reminds me of Trillium.

  3. Joyce Johnson says:

    They grow wild in shade on my property within view of a creek. We are about 4 miles across the NC line in Mecklenburg, VA.

    1. Jean says:

      I am also in Mecklenburg, Va just above the NC line. I found one plant in an abandoned several years ago and couldn’t identify it. I keep it protected with a tomato cage so random 4-wheelers mowers etc would avoid the plant. Only last week did I finally find its identity. This is the only elephant’s foot I have come across after 25 years plus of walking with my dogs and looking for different plants.

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