By Suzanne Wodek
Verbesina alternifolia, commonly called wingstem, is a tall, native, clump-forming perennial. Bright yellow, daisy-like flowers 1” to 2” in diameter bloom atop a hairy, winged stem 4’ to 8’ feet tall. The name Verbesina comes from the plant’s resemblance to verbena. Alternifolia refers to the alternate leaf arrangement. Sometimes this plant is called yellow ironweed because of its resemblance to ironweed. Asteraceae is the largest family of flowering plants with more than 24,000 documented species.
Wingstem typically grows in soil that is well-drained, high in organic matter and in full sun to part shade. It can thrive in consistently moist, organically rich soils, but also tolerates some dry conditions. Plants can easily be grown from seed and have no serious insect or disease problems. Because of the bitterness of its leaves it isn’t consumed by deer, rabbits and other herbivores. Wingstem can be aggressive and therefore may not be suitable for small landscape plantings.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation recognizes wingstem as having special value to pollinators because it supports a great diversity of bees and wasps. It is a host plant for Chlosyne nycteis, or Silvery Checkerspot butterfly; Celastrina neglecta, or Summer Azure butterfly; and Basilodes pepita, or Gold Moth. Wingstem was once marketed to beekeepers as the “Golden Honey Plant.”
Upcoming Events at the Botanical Gardens
(Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please check our website for complete information about these educational programs and events.)
Fall Plant Sale
Saturday, September 12, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fall Bird Walk with Dr. Andrew Laughlin
Saturday, September 19, 8:30–10 a.m.
All programs are $15 for members and $20 for non-members unless otherwise stated. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190.
The Botanical Gardens, located at 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard, is a nonprofit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Check AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org for a variety of education programs.