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Alaska Wildflowers | Purple

Bitter fleabane (Erigeron acris) flower in the interior of Alaska

Bitter fleabane

Erigeron acris

Common Names:

Bitter fleabane
Blue fleabane
Bitter daisy

Synonyms:

Trimorpha acris
Erigeron acer (alt. spelling)

Subordinate taxa (in Alaska):

Erigeron acris ssp. debilis
Erigeron acris ssp. kamtschaticus
Erigeron acris ssp. politus

Genus: Erigeron (fleabane)
Family: Asteraceae/Compositae (Aster family)
Order: Asterales
full classification

Duration

Annual
Biennial/Perennial

Uses

Leaves can be boiled and eaten or eaten as a salad green, but is not a preferable food. Typically considered only during famine.

Identification

Bitter fleabane (Erigeron acris) is a biennial or perennial herb that grows from a taproot and a woody rhizome. It is typically about 40-70 cm (40-27 in) tall but grows up to 1 m (40 in) tall with several or singular, erect stems. Most of the leaves are basal, glabrous, and may be lobed or unlobed. Each node on the stem also has a single leaf alternately. It is often highly branched, sometimes with pubescent stems.

The flowers form on a panicle array or sometimes a corymb array. Each flower has both a tubular disk corolla as well as a ray floret approximately 10-25 mm in width. The outer ray florets are small and typically lilac or purple but can be white or pinkish and may not always be obvious. The inner disk florets are yellow. The seed head is cottony, or dandelion-like with white to whitish-brown filaments.

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database (full citation)

The subspecies Erigeron acris var. kamtschaticus has remotely serrate basal leaves and sparsely strigose phyllaries. The subspecies Erigeron acris var. politus has more purple stems and phyllaries and glabrous leaves and stems.

Distribution and Habitat

Bitter fleabane (Erigeron acris) has a circumpolar distribution, found in Alaska, Canada, the northern United States, Asia, and Europe.

Erigeron acris needs full sun but can grow in variable moist or dry soils. It is most frequently found in meadows, pastures and grasslands, wetlands, and forest margins.

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Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (Plants)
SubkingdomTracheobionta (Vascular plants)
SuperdivisionSpermatophyta (Seed plants)
DivisionMagnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
ClassMagnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
SubclassAsteridae
OrderAsterales
FamilyAsteraceae ⁄ Compositae (Aster family)
GenusErigeron L. (fleabane)
SpeciesErigeron acris L. (bitter fleabane)

References and Further Reading

Erigeron acer – L., Plants For a Future (pfaf.org)

Erigeron acris var. kamtschaticus  (DC.) Herder Taxonomic Serial No.: 535012, ITIS Database

Erigeron acris L. bitter fleabane, USDA Database

31. Erigeron acris Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 863. 1753., Flora of China (www.eFloras.org)

Diagram/drawing: Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 441. Provided by Kentucky Native Plant Society

All online references accessed September 2020 unless otherwise noted

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