Elephantopus carolinianus

Leafy elephant’s foot (Elephantopus carolinianus).

I have found that Elephantopus is a plant that takes people by surprise. Before it blooms, the coarse foliage of this native perennial is often overlooked or dismissed as unattractive. Once the delicate pink-purple flowers open in late summer, folks are surprised first that it’s blooming. Then they’re surprised at how much they like it. And how much bees use it. And that the deer didn’t eat it. They might also be surprised to know these tiny flowers are in the Asteraceae family.

Known as elephant’s foot, there are four species of Elephantopus in Georgia. Two are fairly common: woolly elephant’s foot, Elephantopus tomentosus—which has leaves flat on the ground and nearly leafless stems—and the leafy Carolina species, Elephantopus carolinianus. Smooth elephant’s foot (Elephantopus nudatus) is a Coastal Plain species, as is tall elephant’s foot (Elephantopus elatus)—with the exception of one northern county reported.

Among the species, the plant might be 18 inches to 3 feet tall. If browsed (or cut down) early, it can recover and bloom even shorter (I have several 6-inch ones in my lawn). The flowers can vary from almost white to deep purple but their form is unmistakable. Now is a good time to spot these modest blooms in part-sun to part-shade conditions.


Elephantopus tomentosus.



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