American Burnweed

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday, we have another ubiquitous but unimpressive weed that I feel we all could overlook less, American Burnweed (Erechtites hieraciifolius).

American Burnweed is a rather tall and rather narrow native annual wildflower. It’s partial to sunny sites on a wide range of soils. It most often appears on roadsides, field edges, forest clearings, and other areas where the soil was recently disturbed or the canopy suddenly opened. This is where it garnered the moniker of “Burnweed” as the plant is quick to populate fire-scarred landscapes. Often many plants will grow together into dense clumps. Each plant usually grows to four to six feet in height with a single straight stem. The leaves are long, lance-like, and very variably serrated. The stems are finely ribbed and coated in fine hairs. Overall the plant has quite the unkempt appearance. The flowers are shaped like an oil lantern and rather inconspicuous, with nothing but a wash of creamy yellow and a few flecks of pink on the tip to distinguish them from the lime-green foliage. The flowers, interestingly, are primarily pollinated by wasps of all shapes and sizes. Flowers mature and unravel into a sphere of silky seeds that further frays and floats away in the currents of the breeze.

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