Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh


Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale)

Sneezeweed is an attractive composite flower with distinctively notched rays that make it easy to identify. (A similar species, Purple-Headed Sneezeweed, Helenium flexuosum, has been introduced in a few locations; it is easy to distinguish by the dark brownish button in the center.) The plant likes damp areas; this one was growing in Schenley Park, in a section of former lawn that is being allowed to grow into a meadow for better water retention. It was blooming in the middle of September.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HELÈNIUM L. SNEEZEWEED. Heads many-flowered, radiate; rays several, wedge-shaped, 3-6-cleft, fertile, rarely sterile. Involucre small, reflexed; the bracts linear or awl-shaped. Receptacle globose or ellipsoid. Achenes top-shaped, ribbed; pappus of 6-8 thin 1-nerved chaffy scales, the nerve usually extended into a bristle or point. — Erect branching herbs with alternate leaves, often sprinkled with bitter aromatic resinous globules; heads yellow, rarely purple, terminal, single or corymbed. (The Greek name of some plant, said to be named after Helenus, son of Priam.)

Leaves broad, decurrent on the angled stem.

H. autumnàle L. Perennial, nearly smooth, 0.2-2 m. high; leaves mostly toothed, lanceolate to ovate-oblong; heads larger (2-4 cm. broad); disk yellow; rays fertile, yellow. — Alluvial river-banks and wet ground, w. Que. and w. Mass. to Man., southw. and westw. Aug.-Oct.


Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane is a tall and striking flower, imported from Europe. It is not particularly common around here, but abundant where it does take up residence. These plants were blooming in Highland Park in late July.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

ÍNULA L. ELECAMPANE. Heads many-flowered, radiate; disk-flowers perfect and fertile. Involucre Imbricated, hemispherical, the outer bracts herbaceous or leaf-like. Receptacle naked. Anthers caudate. Achenes more or less 4-5-ribbed; pappus simple, of capillary bristles. — Coarse herbs, not floccose-woolly, with alternate simple leaves, and large yellow heads. (The ancient Latin name.)

I. Helènium L. (ELECAMPANE.) Stout perennial, 1-1.6 m. high; leaves large, woolly beneath; those from the thick root ovate, petioled, the others partly clasping; rays very many, narrow. — Roadsides and damp pastures. Aug. — Heads very large. Root mucilaginous. (Nat. from Eu.)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

One of our most beloved wild flowers, the Purple Coneflower is at the eastern edge of its native range here; but ornamental plantings have made it a common sight, and from those ornamental plantings come seeds that reinforce the wild population. These plants grew in a clearing in Scott Township, where they were blooming in early July. Up close, the vivid red-orange of the disk florets is as striking as the bright pink-purple of the rays.

This is the Echinacea so much prized by herbalists for its supposed use against colds.

Gray describes the genus (which he lists as Brauneria) and the species:

BRAUNÈRIA Neck. PURPLE CONE-FLOWER. Heads many-flowered; rays mostly drooping, pistillate but sterile. Bracts of the involucre imbricated, lanceolate, spreading. Receptacle conical, the lanceolate carinate spiny-tipped chaff longer than the disk-flowers. Achenes thick, short, 4-sided; pappus a small toothed border.—Perennial herbs, with stout and nearly simple stems naked above and terminated by a single large head; leaves chiefly alternate, 3-5-nerved. Rays rather persistent; disk purplish. (Named, it is said, for Jacob Brauner, a German herbalist of the early part of the 18th century.) Echinacea Moench.

Rays purple, rose-color, or rarely white.

B. purpurea (DC.) Britton. Stem smooth, or in one form rough-bristly; leaves rough, often serrate; the lowest ovate, 5-nerved, veiny, long-petioled ; the others ovate-lanceolate; involucre imbricated in 3-5 rows; rays 15-20, dull purple (rarely whitish), 2.5-4.5 cm. long or more. (Echinacea Moench.) — Prairies and banks, from w. Pa. and Va. to Mich., Ia., and southw.; reported as adventive eastw. July.