Photos by cottonmanifesto
Urban species #145: Daisy fleabane Erigeron annuus
If you see a little daisy-like flower blooming in the spring, you'll be tempted to call it an aster, but it's almost certainly a fleabane. Another way to tell these two similar types apart, is by knowing that fleabanes have many more ray flowers--what look to be petals--than asters. It bears explaining here that each "petal" on a daisy-like blossom (including sunflowers, coneflowers, daisies and so on) is the visible part of a separate flower, and the center disk is many more flowers all crammed together. Each flower has its own sex organs and develops into its own seed. The same is true for other members of Asteraceae, the largest plant family, such as dandelions, thistle, and lettuce.
Fleabanes are a group of related plants, found in both the Old World and New, and used for a variety of herbal applications in both places. Its name comes from its use as an insect repellent, for which may or may not be effective. For some insects, the bees and beetles that pollinate it Fleabanes provide food. Daisy fleabane is one of the first native herbaceous plants of the year to produce an attractive flower, in the northern states. Horseweed is a close relative, and is sometimes lumped into the genus Erigeron with the fleabanes.