Vascular Plants Page 2

PAGE 1Araceae • Bromeliaceae • Commelinaceae • Cyperaceae • Iridaceae • Lemnaceae • Liliaceae • Orchidaceae • Acanthaceae • Apocynaceae
PAGE 2 — Asteraceae • Berberidaceae • Campanulaceae • Fabaceae
PAGE 3Geraniaceae • Lamiaceae • Malvaceae • Oxalidaceae • Plantaginaceae • Phytolaccaceae • Polygonaceae • Rosaceae • Rubiaceae • Solanaceae • Saururaceae • Verbenaceae • Violaceae

 Family Asteraceae

Giant Ragweed - Ambrosia trifida

Although an herbaceous annual, it grows up to 15 feet. Opposite leaves, usually three-lobed with bristly hairs, grow up a tall, stiff stalk. Spikes of green flowers in late summer. Huge colonies may be found in sunny disturbed places. Species of the Asteraceae, or composite, family commonly produce pollen that triggers allergic reactions, and ragweed is especially well-known for this characteristic. Its pollen is actually used by pharmaceutical companies to treat ragweed allergies. It is useful as an astringent, to stop bleeding, for treating fever, diarrhea, nosebleeds, and mouth sores. American Indians made a leaf poultice to treat bug bites and chewed the root at night for its calming properties. Ragweed seeds are large with a tough coat so animals do not often eat them.

Asters - Aster sp. (several species within the Asteraceae Family)

The genus Aster is complex; the flowers are closely related and difficult to differentiate. No one has identified the precise number of species found here in Louisiana, but the flowers generally have a very similar structure to the common Sunflower. The basal leaves are key to identifying particular species, however, they usually wither and die. Some of the species here at Acadiana Nature Station are A. lateriflorus, A. dumosus, A. subulatus variety ligulatus, all very similar flowers called "white asters." A fourth species is A. praealtus, with lavender flowers up to 8 feet tall. They all prefer sunny areas.

Horrid Thistle - Cirsium horridus

With spines up to 8 inches long, the Horrid Thistle almost names itself once stepped on, or even seen. Yellow, purple, or (rarely) red or white corollas sit handsomely atop often solitary stems and a basal rosette up to 2 ft. in diameter. The plant reaches tall, depending on the type of the soil it resides in: pine and prairie soils will support it up to 2 ft. tall while our alluvial soils at the Nature Station can allow it to reach heights of up to 6 ft. tall, given the opportunity! This species is usually a winter annual, but re-seeds itself prolifically by sending out fluffy floating white seeds. These seeds are eaten by songbirds, including Carolina Chickadees, and the nectar is used by hummingbirds and butterflies, especially swallowtails.

Elephant's Foot - Elephantopus carolinianus

Large basal leaves that lie flat on the ground will produce a stem with pink flower heads in the early fall. This particular species of Elephantopus will have lost its basal leaves and grown large stem leaves at flowering time.

Showy Daisy Fleabane - Erigeron philadelphicus

The basal leaves of the Daisy Fleabane begin to grow in October or November, and beginning in December their stems (up to 30 in. tall) are produced. It produces many flower heads in spring, about ½ in. diameter, colored from white to light pink with a yellow center. The petals are thin like hair, and number about 150 per flower. These are seen at the Nature Station along the back levee on the edge areas since they tend not to grow under the forest canopy. Its genus name is from the Greek eri (early) and geron (old man) presumably referring to the fact that the plant flowers early in the year and has a hairy down, like an old man’s beard. Daisy fleabane tea has been used as a diuretic, an astringent, to treat diarrhea, kidney stones, and to stop bleeding.

Dog Fennel - Eupatorium capillifolium

Grows up to six feet tall and shaped like a cypress tree with a central stem and downward-slumping branches all around. Small white flowers bloom in late summer through fall and cover the top third, or even the top half, of the plant. Sometimes called "yankee-weed." 

Mist Flower - Eupatorium coelestinum

Clusters of small bluish flower are common in disturbed soils and the margins of wet sites from August until the frost (and occasionally in April). Leaves are opposite and triangle-shaped with serrate margins. Grows up to 3 feet. Sometimes used by gardeners.

White Snakeroot - Eupatorium rugosum

Similar to mist flower above, but its flowers are white and its leaves are more pointed. Found in disturbed soils, fields, and woodlands. It is poisonous to livestock; that poison is then transmissible to suckling young and humans by way of milk or butter. It is quite common, and many deaths were attributed to its presence in the early 1800's. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died from snakeroot poisoning, called "milk sickness," when he was a child. Symptoms include prostration, vomiting, tremors, constipation, and delirium. Rarely happens today. American Indians would use the roots in a tea to treat various diseases, or burn the plant to revive unconscious sick people with the smoke.

Rabbit Tobacco - Gnaphalium obtusifolium 

In the first year of its life cycle, Rabbit Tobacco puts its energy into growing short hairy rosettes; then in the second year it will produce the flowering stem with white flowers. The plant remains standing until the following spring, hence its alternate name, "sweet everlasting." The name "rabbit tobacco" may refer to the peppery tobacco smell of its crushed leaves, or perhaps to its medicinal uses. Some think that when brewed into a tea, it allows your lungs to breathe as a relief from asthma, or, in some accounts, relief from lung cancer. It is also used to alleviate drunkenness, for sore throats, pneumonia, fever, abdominal cramps, and rheumatism, or as fresh juice for an aphrodisiac. Common in early succession areas such as poor roadside soils or where recently plowed. 

Sump Weed - Iva annua

Sump weed is an annual herb that grows up to 5 feet tall. The plant has small flower heads that are yellow or green and blooms July through November. The plant attracts birds and the seeds once were used as food by indigenous people.

Wild Lettuce - Lactuca sp. (species undetermined)

Members of this genus are distinguished by a milky juice that flows from a broken or wounded stem. They are usually annuals or biennials with leaves almost like an arrowhead and the flowers range from blue or violet to white to yellow. We usually see this tall plant along the edge of the boardwalk in the open, sunny areas, sometimes with its head bent down in humble reverence for nature’s biodiversity. Seeds are occasionally eaten by songbirds and small mammals. Although it may be poisonous to consume, American Indians and settlers may tea for various medicinal purposes. The milky juice can serve as a substitute for rubber.

Santa Maria or Wild Quinine - Parthenium hysterophorus

It is an annual herbaceous plant that can grow up to 5 feet tall. Stems are green and covered in small stiff hairs. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, and decrease in size on the upper branches. The small, white, flower heads are arranged in clusters at the tips of the branches and in the center. The plant can cause skin rashes, watery eyes, itching, coughing, and fatigue. It is found in riparian zones, roadsides, pastures, seasonal floodplains, grasslands, and woodlands.

​Goldenrod - Solidago sp.(several species)

Species of this genus will often hybridize freely, creating confusion among botanists as to the number of species, hybrids and varieties that can be named. In general, Goldenrods are perennials with fibrous roots and terminal spikes of small, dense, yellow flowers in fall. It can grow tall and is common especially in fallow fields. Songbirds and small mammals sometimes eat the seeds, and larger mammals may graze on the leaves in winter. In Germany, the leaves of some species are approved for use as a diuretic to treat inflammation of the urinary tract.

Prickly Sow Thistle - Sonchus asper

This is a common species to see in open, somewhat recently disturbed soils such as fallow sugarcane fields. It has a fleshy stem with a milky juice that oozes when cut, and a rosette of spinose, clasping leaves. A few yellow flowers sit atop a tall stem. Along the banks of our canal, the sow thistles grow prolifically in the spring and early summer. 

Gaillardia - Gaillardia aestivalis

Yellow ray flowers tinged with red around the brown center bloom all summer until frost. Grows in sunny areas all along the Gulf Coast. Can be found in abundance on the levee at the Acadiana Nature Park.

Blazing star - Liatris graminifolia

Beautiful tall spikes of purple flowers in the summer. Spikes grow up to about five feet and will usually slouch or fall over. Leaf tea was used for bladder trouble and sore throats, and the root was mashed into a poultice to cover snake bites. Found along the levee.

Mexican Hat - Ratibida columnaris

Perennial with several stems up to 2 feet high with leaves along the bottom half of the stem only. Terminal summer-blooming ray flowers have yellow petals with red near the base and long cylindrical receptacles. Found in the sunny space along the levee at the Acadiana Nature Station.

Coreopsis, Tickseed - Coreopsis lanceolata

1-inch yellow summer-blooming flowers. Each petal is split into three at the tip. Found along the levee.

​False-dandelion - Pyrrhopappus carolinianus

Yellow flowers look like dandelions, and false dandelion produces a milky juice like dandelion, the leaves are not as sharply divided as dandelion leaves. While dandelion has a basal rosette of leaves, false dandelion has a few stem leaves as well. Upper leaves become gradually smaller. Flowers are open in the morning, but then close in the heat of the day.

Horse Weed - Conyza sp.

Horse weed is an annual native plant growing up to 5ft tall. The light green stems are hairy and the leaves are slender with a toothed margin. The leaves grow in an alternate arrangement up the stem. The plant blooms for 2-3 weeks between mid-summer and autumn. It can have no apparent floral scent or it is mild and sweet. Habitats include prairies, fields, and pastures. The flowers attract small bees, wasps, flies, and other insects. Some insects feed on the leaves and stems. The plant can irritate the skin of some people.

 Family Berberidaceae

Blue Star - Amsonia tabernaemontana

Perennial clumping flowers that look like their name, grows up to three feet tall with lance-shaped leaves and is found commonly in rich deciduous woods or wet sites in alluvial soils such as ours here at the Nature Station.

 Family Campanulaceae

Mayapple; Mandrake - Podophyllum peltatum

A delicately fragrant scent emanates from the solitary white flowers found hanging under one or two large leaves. The Mayapple is a gregarious perennial herb which grows up to a height of 1 ½ or 2 ft. The fruit is a yellowish to reddish berry about 3 in. long. Pulp from this fruit has a peculiar flavor which can be eaten raw in small amounts or processed into marmalade. The seeds and vegetative parts are poisonous, however Native Americans and early settlers used parts of it medicinally.

Cardinal Flower - Lobelia cardinalis

Like the bird that this flower is named for, its brilliant red color can be seen from a great distance. It can grow from 2 to 5 ft tall and thrives in moist areas such as stream banks and cypress swamps. Although it has been used medicinally for some time, overdoses can cause adverse symptoms or death.

Venus' Looking Glass - Triodanis perfoliata

Purple flowers rest in the axis of the stem and leaves, which clasp tightly to the stem. It grows tall in the summer, with few branches off of its main stem.

 Family Fabaceae

Partridge Pea - Chamaecrista fasciculata(previously Cassia fasciculata)

A small annual legume with fern-like compound leaves. The summer flowers bloom in the morning and wilt in the afternoon. The lower petals on each of the yellow flowers are larger than the top petals. As a legume, it makes small bean pods. The Partridge Pea grows in open, disturbed areas. The plants feed caterpillars of sulfur butterflies. Cherokees may have made tea from its roots for treating fatigue, hence an alternate name "sleeping plant."

White Dutch Clover - Trifolium repens

A very common clover with 3 round leaflets per leaf and 1-inch, round, white to pinkish flowerheads. Blooming peaks in April to May, but sporadically blooms almost all year. It is introduced from Europe, where flower tea was historically used to treat rheumatism and gout. Contains genistene, an estrogenic isoflavone useful as an antioxidant. Mice, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and other mammals eat the seeds and leaves, and bees enjoy the nectar and pollen.

Bladderpod - Glottidium vesicarium

An annual that grows up to 12 feet. Leaves are divided into about 24 opposite oval-shaped leaflets. Small pinkish-yellow flowers bloom in summer. Seeds from the pods are very poisonous; consuming a small amount can cause death. Cows sometimes eat the seeds and die. Found sometimes along the levee.

Coffee Weed - Senna obtusifolia (previously Cassia obtusifolia)

2 to 3 pairs of leaflets that are broader near the end than near the base. Grows up to 5 feet tall. Yellow flowers bloom from June until frost and are replaced by very slender, curved, 9-inch pods. Poisonous if consumed in large quantities. Can host the tobacco etch virus. Nevertheless, it has been used both for food and medicine. Nomadic tribal people in North Africa make a paste out of the leaves and ferment it as a source of protein. Tea made from the seeds is used to treat fatigue, stomachaches, and headaches, probably because of caffeine content. Found in the Acadiana Nature Park along the levee. (Lespedeza sp.)

Beggar's Ticks - Desmodium glabellum

Small purple flowers make triangle-shaped seeds that disperse by sticking to passing people or animals. Leaflets of three.

​Persian Clover - Trifolium resupinatum

3 Leaflets are longer than they are wide. Flowers are round and pink. Became abundant in Louisiana after the 1927 flood. Like the other species in the Bean Family, it improves soil by adding nitrogen, and is a good wildlife forage because its leaves are rich in protein.