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Monday, April 23, 2012

Erigeron the Great

A new addition to the 2012 Berry Prairie blooming-flower roster is Erigeron compositus, sometimes known as cutleaf daisy. This species is one of 46 erigerons that grow in Wyoming, 176 in North America, and nearly 400 around the world. Erigerons are often called fleabanes (because fleas will flee from them), but that name is shared with other genera. Some Wyoming erigerons get quite tall—up to 18 inches or more—but the four species on the Berry Prairie are diminutive. 

E. compositus flowering on the Berry Prairie

The first fleabane to bloom this year, E. compositus is widely distributed in our state, with a preference for rocky sites. When not in flower, it can be confused with another Berry Prairie species, E. pinnatisectus, but close observation will reveal that the leaves of E. compositus are palmately lobed, while those of E. pinnatisectus are pinnately lobed. 

However, unless you live in Albany or Carbon counties, you are unlikely to be confused by these two species in the wild, as the distribution of E. pinnatisectus is primarily to the south of Wyoming (and higher in elevation than E. compositus).

Erigeron speciosus (below) is another beautiful and widely distributed species, which blooms later in the summer, and flowered on the Berry Prairie last year. And one that can’t be confused with any other Wyoming species, E. linearis, is the only yellow-flowered fleabane in the state. Watch for more Erigeron photos as the season progresses!

E. speciosus is a taller, purple-colored fleabane

Any hike in the hills at this time of year will reveal little blooming erigerons. I saw two species during a hike south of Laramie this last weekend, E. compositus, and E. flagellarus. But with 28 species documented from Albany County, I have a whole lot more to watch for, and can’t wait for the next opportunity!  

Written by Dorothy Tuthill, Berry Center Associate Director


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