Fleabane Discovery

Fleabane bud.
Photography copyright © Serena Kovalosky

These were among the first unidentified plants that appeared when I let my vegetable garden grow wild in 2020. They grew to be quite tall – as tall as me! Maybe they would be wildflowers? My neighbor laughed. “They’re just weeds,” she said.

But by June they blossomed into exquisite little white flowers I remembered and loved from my childhood!

They turned out to be fleabane – a local native wildflower and a member of the aster family.

A garden of Fleabane.
Photography copyright © Serena Kovalosky
Annual Fleabane
Photography copyright © Serena Kovalosky

Why were they called “fleabane?” Did they really repel fleas? My cats would approve. Back in the good ol’ days, fleabane was dried and used to ward off fleas, gnats and flies, but there seems to be little evidence of its actual effectiveness. I will need to delve more into its properties.

I kept a few of them around the garden and have planted my vegetables around them. The insects in my garden are quite happy with this new development.

My cat, Snowball (aka Tank) is pleased as well: he now has a private napping place in the garden. I hope fleabane does ward off fleas….

White cat sleeping in garden among the fleabane.
Photography copyright © Serena Kovalosky

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And Now for the Science…

Annual Fleabane (Erigeron annuus) A member of the aster family, also known as Eastern Daisy Fleabane. Native to the eastern United States, introduced across North America. Grows up to 5 feet tall with an erect stem branching occasionally in the upper half to form flowering stems bearing flower heads with 40 or more tightly packed white to pale pink ray flowers surrounding a central yellow disc.
Sources: Wikipedia, Brooklyn Botanical Garden

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