Some weeds look beautiful as flowers in fields, against houses and fences, and even on roadsides. But if they’re noxious in any way, gardeners will still try to eliminate them.
However, depending on what’s in your yard or garden, Fleabane could be a decorative native plant and not just a weed.
Read on to see how this daisy-like weed functions as a flowering plant and a noxious weed.
The drought-tolerant daisy-like Erigeron spp. is a member of the Aster (Asteraceae) family, and it grows in hardiness zones 2–7
The first two Fleabane are annual weeds that blossom in late spring into fall and go to seed while flowering. And the third Fleabane can be either a biennial or a short-lived perennial and will bloom in mid-spring into summer.
Erigeron annuus grows 2–5 feet on single or multiple ridged stems lined with sparse and bristly hairs.
Its leaves are 2–6 inches long and 1–3 inches wide and covered with stiff hairs. The toothed bottom leaves are elliptical to spatula-shaped, while the upper ones are lance-shaped.
Each open-branching cluster has up to 50 ¾-inch flowers with 80–125 narrow white petals and a wide yellow center disk.
The brown seeds are dry and mostly hairless, and each one is less than an inch long.
Erigeron strigosus grows 1–2½ feet on stiff and hairless to sparsely hairless multiple stems.
Like the Common Fleabane, the mostly toothless leaves start off big and become small as they climb the stem. They’re 1–6 inches long and ¼–4 inches wide and lanceolate in shape.
The flower clusters are also open-branching and hold up to 200 flowers. Each one is ½–¾-inch in diameter and has a yellow center disk and 40–100 narrow petals. Their color ranges from white to pink and even blue!
Its seeds are also brown and less than an inch long. But unlike the Common Fleabane’s seeds, these have a few short light brown hairs.
Erigeron philadelphicus grows about ½–3 feet tall on a single downy erect stem that branches at the upper half.
All the leaves are completely hairy, ranging from 2 to 6 inches long. The bottom leaves are spatula-shaped, stalked, and lobed. And as they ascend the stem, they get shorter and widely spaced and become stalkless and toothless.
There are three to 35 flowers in each flat to open cluster. Each flower is an inch in diameter with 100–150 densely packed pale pink to white narrow petals and a yellow center disk.
The dry seeds of the Philadelphia Fleabane are less than an inch long and have 10–20 light brown hairs.
History of Fleabane
The hairy stems are the source of the Erigeron genus, which means old man in the spring. But where does this native plant get the name Fleabane?
Early American settlers burned or dried this weed in their satchels to repel fleas, gnats, flies, and other annoying insects. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that it’s a true repellent since pollinators are attracted to this weed.
Aside from repelling insects, Native American tribes used this weed as an astringent, diuretic, and expectorant.
Why is this Cute Flower Considered a Weed?
Despite its beautiful appearance, Fleabane is still a weed because of how it reproduces and spreads. It only reproduces from seed, but when it does, about 100,000 seeds are the result! When they’re released, the wind and water disperse them.
This weed is invasive in a good way since it outcompetes non-native weeds! But it’s also invasive in a bad way since it also robs cultivated plants of their moisture and space.
Fleabane is resistant to many herbicides, including ones with the ingredient glyphosate. Luckily chemicals aren’t the only way to remove this weed.
The taproot is easy to pull when the plant is young and less than a foot tall. You could also mow over these weeds to prevent them from going to seed.
When Fleabane matures, the taproot is harder to pull up, so water the soil to loosen it. Because the risk of releasing thousands of seeds comes with pulling, place a plastic bag over the weed. Then pull or cut the weed out of the soil and burn or throw it in the garbage.
The leaves can be cooked or eaten raw, but cooking removes the small hairs. They’re said to taste like spinach, and they contain caffeic acid, which has antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. Even the stems are good when cooked!
Animals like squirrels, groundhogs, and sheep also eat the weed’s leaves and stems. And American goldfinches, ground finches, and sparrows usually feast on the seeds.
Hunting and Nesting Ground
Crab spiders use Fleabane as hunting grounds instead of building webs. Besides hanging out on the weed, scouting for prey, it also feeds on the nectar.
And before caterpillars turn into lynx flower moths, they eat the flowers and seeds before nesting in the weed.
This is one weed you could add to a bouquet garden. Try pairing it with colorful companions like peonies, coral bells, or plants blooming in spring, summer, and fall. Fleabane grows in full sun, partial shade, and alkaline soil.
Since it grows well in gravel and quick-draining soil, this daisy-like weed makes a perfect addition to rock gardens. Because pollinators are attracted to Fleabane, it’s an ideal weed for butterfly gardens!
As one of the first native plants to appear in disturbed or restored sites, Fleabane functions in restoring ecosystems. After fires, storms, restorations, or other disturbances occur, the weed stabilizes the soil and provides food and shelter to animals.
The Sunny Fleabane
This native plant is either a noxious weed to eliminate or an opportunity to beautify your garden. If Fleabane is growing near your plants, you can remove it unless it’s growing away from them. Even if you don’t have plants, keeping or removing the weed is yours.
Would you like to learn more about weeds? Perhaps you’d like to know whether or not there are benefits to allowing them to grow in your garden or landscape. Visit our Common Weeds page and find out!