Small-flowered Fleabanes

Blue Fleabane Pyramidal Fleabane Canadian Fleabane Ploughman's Spikenard

What are they?

The fleabanes are members of the Asteraceae or daisy family. Many of them have coloured petals (usually referred to as ligules in the Asteraceae) around the outside of the flower like a daisy, but this page covers the species that are without ligules, or only with very tiny ones. Typically for the daisy family, the tiny, tubular flowers (called florets) are arranged in a tight cluster with many of them forming a flowerhead, surrounded by narrow bracts or phyllaries that bind the whole structure together around the outside. If you have a plant with flowers that looks similar to these but is woolly or downy with white hairs, you might try checking the cudweeds page.

Where are they found?

The majority of species on this page arrived here from overseas, probably accidentally as they have little value as ornamentals and are not used as food or medicinal crops. Now that they are here, these introduced species have rapidly become very common in urban areas and may carpet large areas of rough ground on old industrial sites and abandoned, rough ground. They persist as weeds in gravelled and paved areas, grow out of brickwork and appear on arable and other disturbed ground such as construction sites. The two native species included here may be found on light sandy or chalky soils.

Identification

Identification of the two native species (Ploughman's Spikenard and Blue Fleabane) is fairly straightforward. However, the four species from overseas are very problematic but can be identified with experience. Take care to note the overall shape of the flower spike, the appearance of the basal leaves (these might be missing late in the season), the hairiness of the leaf stalk (petiole), and details of the flowerheads. The last should include overall shape and width of the flowerhead at flowering time, relative length of the ligules (if present) and hairiness of the phyllaries.



Pyramidal Fleabane      Erigeron sumatrensis

(Guernsey Fleabane) Introduced from South America. Common in the larger conurbations and the species most likely to be found in urban areas. Flowers July to October. Plants overall deep, grey-green in colour. Basal leaves rather broad, entire or with a few irregular lobes along the margins; petioles densely downy. Flower spike typically broadest about two thirds of the way up and forming a kite-shaped outline with long lower branches and a pointed top. Stems hairy. Flowerheads 5-8mm wide at maturity; greenish phyllaries downy and sometimes slightly purplish-tipped.

Pyramidal Fleabane Pyramidal Fleabane Pyramidal Fleabane Pyramidal Fleabane
Habit
Flower spike
Flowerheads
Flowerhead
Pyramidal Fleabane Pyramidal Fleabane
Basal rosette
Leaf petiole


Canadian Fleabane      Erigeron canadensis

Introduced from North America. Common in rural areas and the species most likely to be found as an arable or allotment weed, especially on lighter sandy soils. Flowers July to October. Plants overall pale, yellowish-green in colour. Basal leaves relatively narrow, entire or with a few uneven lobes along the margins; petioles with well-spaced, long white hairs. Flower spike typically columnar with relatively short, spreading side branches and a rounded top. Stems with scattered white hairs. Flowerheads 3-5mm wide at maturity; greenish phyllaries narrow, relatively smooth with a few white, bristly hairs. Ligules (petals) usually clearly longer than the phyllaries.

Canadian Fleabane Canadian Fleabane Canadian Fleabane Canadian Fleabane
Habit
Flower spike
Flowerheads
Flowerhead
Canadian Fleabane Canadian Fleabane
Basal rosette
Leaf petiole


Tall Fleabane      Erigeron floribunda

(Bilbao's Fleabane) Introduced from South America. Uncommon but increasing in urban and suburban areas, typically on disturbed ground, roadsides and gardens. Flowers July to October. Plants deep green to grey-green in colour. Basal leaves distinctly broad and typically rather deeply lobed along the margins; petioles with just a few, whitish, curled hairs along the margin. Flower spike typically narrow at the base, broadest near the top and broadly domed. Stems lightly hairy. Flowerheads 3-5mm wide at maturity; greenish phyllaries hairless and broader than those of Canadian Fleabane.

Tall Fleabane Tall Fleabane Tall Fleabane
Habit
Flower spike
Flowerhead
Tall Fleabane Tall Fleabane
Basal rosette
Leaf petiole


Blue Fleabane      Erigeron acris

Native. Favours light, sandy or chalky soils in Breckland, south Norwich, the Suffolk Sandlings and coastal NW Norfolk. Scattered elsewhere. Flowers July to August. Best told by the purplish wash to the flowerheads and upper stems.

Blue Fleabane Blue Fleabane Blue Fleabane Blue Fleabane
Habit
Flowers
Basal leaf
Stem leaf


Ploughman's Spikenard      Inula conyzae

Native. Rather scarce and scattered throughout the region on light, sandy soils, especially on bare or open ground such as coastal dunes and parts of Breckland and the Gipping Valley. Flowers July to September. A distinctive plant with foxglove-like leaves and flowerheads with phyllaries that bend outwards towards their tips.

Ploughman's Spikenard Ploughman's Spikenard Ploughman's Spikenard Ploughman's Spikenard
Habit
Flowerheads
Flowerhead
Leaf