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One of the showiest of the fleabane species, Robin's plantain makes an early-summer appearance with cheerful, multi-petalled, lavender-blue to white flowers. The yellow-centered blooms are borne in several-headed clusters on soft, hairy, hollow, unbranched, sparsely-leaved stems that reach up to two feet tall. The paddle-shaped basal leaves remain green after the flower stalks wither. This biennial to short-lived perennial spreads slowly by self-seeding and rhizomes to form colonies.

 

Erigeron comes from the Greek words eri, meaning "early," and geron, meaning "old man," referring to the early bloom time and downy plant appearance that suggests the white beard of an old man. Plants in the genus Erigeron are commonly called "fleabane" because the plants were once believed to repel fleas. The Latin word pulchellus means beautiful. 

 

Native habitats include rocky or open woods, stream banks or wooded sand dunes, and meadows. Use for naturalizing, as a groundcover, in borders and rock gardens, and in cottage or butterfly gardens. 

 

Plant Characteristics:

Grows 1-1/2 to 2' tall and wide.

 

Prefers part or full sun. Tolerates drought with afternoon shade.

 

Adapts to wide variety of dry to moist, well-drained soils, including those containing clay and sand. Drainage is important.

 

White, yellow-centered, 1" flowers bloom for 2-3 weeks May-June. Fifty to 100 ray florets surround a head of numerous yellow disk florets. Many linear, green bracts (phyllaries) line the base of each flowerhead. Both the ray and disk florets are fertile, each one producing a single bullet-shaped achene with a tuft of white hairs for wind dispersal.

 

Oval- to ovobate-shaped basal leaves are soft and hairy, 2-6" long, with toothed margin. Smaller leaves ascend the stems.

 

Wildlife Value:

Host plant for larvae of 19 Lepidoptera species, including green leuconycta and wavy-lined emerald moths (both pictured here - notice the WLE uses parts of the flower heads it feeds on into its disguise), as well as specialists lynx and obscure flower moths. The flowers attract small bees, various flies, small butterflies, and skippers. Mice and small rodents eat the seeds. Deer may browse the foliage.

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Cherokee used the plant to treat coughs, colds, skin conditions, and tuberculosis (http://naeb.brit.org/uses/species/1481/). 

Plantain, Robin's, Erigeron pulchellus

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