Left: Verbesina occidentalis. Right: Summer azure on V. alternifolia.

Verbesina is a genus that includes eight species in Georgia, most of them tall and robust plants that thrive in damp areas throughout Georgia. The common name wingstem comes from winged ridges on the stem of most species. Another common name is crownbeard, but individual species have other unique names like yellow ironweed, cowpen daisy, and gravel weed. Several of the Coastal Plain species are of special concern in Georgia.

In the Coastal Plain, some of these species have already finished blooming, but three species are likely blooming now and are fairly common: Verbesina alternifolia, with yellow flowers and found through the state, has alternate leaf arrangement and wings. Verbesina occidentalis, also with yellow flowers and found throughout the state, has opposite leaf arrangement. White crownbeard, Verbesina virginica, is one of only two species to have white flowers and found throughout the state, is noticeably different.

The remaining five species are all only found in the Coastal Plain: Verbesina aristata, Verbesina encelioides, Verbesina helianthoides (a species of Special Concern in Georgia), Verbesina heterophylla (noted as Critically Imperiled in Georgia), and Verbesina walteri, the other white-flowering species but it has no ray flowers (also of Special Concern in Georgia).

In my yard, wingstem (V. alternifolia) gets very tall (up to 10 feet) in damp areas and serves as host plants for two butterflies: the Silvery checkerspot butterfly and the Summer azure butterfly. I leave some of the thick stems to provide homes for insects like bees that use the hollow stems. If you want to include some, be sure to give it some room.


Left: Closeup of stem of Verbesina alternifolia, showing winged ridges. Right: Verbesina virginica  and American lady butterfly.


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