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Wingstem, Verbesina alternifolia, sometimes called Yellow Ironweed, is a tall ( 6-8 ft.) yellow flowering composite with the easily identified characteristic of long papery ridges along the stem, the ‘wings’. The long elliptical leaves are somewhat rough on the upper surface. The flowers are clustered at the top displaying several 1-2 inch wide pincushion individuals. They bloom for six weeks or more in late summer into fall. Plants spread by rhizomes and seed, excellent for naturalizing but may not be suitable for small, formal plantings. Verbesina is a name derived from the unrelated plant ‘Verbena’ that has similar foliage. The species name ‘alternifolia’ references the alternating leaf arrangement.
Wingstem is a moisture-loving plant, naturally occurring in flood plains and the edges of water bodies. It is well adapted to a variety of settings, sun to mostly shade, medium to wet and poor to rich soils. It is native to most of eastern North America.
Bumble bees are especially fond of wingstem, as are many other bees, butterflies, skippers, and the occasional assortment of flies and wasps. It is also host plant to many butterfly caterpillars including the Silvery Checkerspot, Summer Azure butterfly, and Gold Moth. It is mostly avoided by browsing animals and a last resort for deer. Seeds are easily collected in the fall when they are tan and dry.
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