When I saw these yellow sunflower-like flowers blooming at the end of our long drive, I first thought they were at the end of their blooming season. It turns out that this plant, called Wingstem, Actinomeris alternifolia, only has a few petals on each flower, so it normally looks like it’s lost a few petals.
Wingstem looks like a sunflower with drooping petals. Photos taken 4Sep08.
Wingstem is a very tall, yellow-flowering composite somewhat like a sunflower. Petals droop and expose the spikey disc flowers. Unlike your standard bird-seed sunflower that has a flat disc of disc flowers surrounded by many ray flowers, Wingstem’s disc flowers arch upwards in the middle and the ray flowers are few.
Several wingstem flowers appear to cluster together at the end of the side stems.
Wingstem flowers gather into dome-shaped, natural bouquets at the ends of branches.
Long, lance-shaped leaves alternate up the stem. Some upper stems have a characteristic “wing”, thus the name Wingstem. Wingstem is found growing along culverts and roadsides in Central Pennsylvania.
Wingstem apparently has no medicinal or edible qualities, but we’ll still appreciate its end-of-summer wildflower bouquet.