Great Garden Gall

Fran Robinson (Class of 2018) sent this photo of a gall on her white crownbeard (Verbesina virginica) plant.  This gall likely is the handiwork of a gall midge (Neolasioptera verbesinae).  Its species name, verbesinaespeaks to its fidelity to the genus Verbesina.  This tiny fly produces stem galls in plants in this genus.

Fran uses this large native wildflower in her home landscape, as does Carol Thomas, who retired from the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, shown below, providing scale …

Hammock edges are its usual habitat, and it once grew along the northwestern edge of the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) parking lot …

White crownbeard is quite adaptable and, under the right conditions of sun and moisture (not sogginess) can grown to be up to 6 feet tall.  It will be smaller in shadier and drier conditions.

White crowbeard is dramatic.  Its large and variable leaves can grow to be a foot long.  The opposite leaves are quite scabrous (rough to the touch) and usually have toothed margins (edges).

Its central stem is winged and ruffly, giving rise to one of many common names for this plant, winged stem.

It goes by a variety of other common names, too:  Frostweed, ice plant, iceweed, Virginia crownbeard, Indian tobacco, richweed, and squawweed.  This plant grows throughout the southeast and west to Texas.  In places with freezing temperature, the central stem exudes water that freezes forming dramatic ice ribbons for which it is called frostweed, ice plant, and iceweed.  Indians reportedly smoked the leaves, so it also is called Indian tobacco and squawweed.

Whatever you call it, this plant flowers in the late summer and fall and is a member of the daisy family, Asteraceae.  Its ray and disk florets are white.  Inside the central disk are lots of tiny flowers with purplish black anthers and abundant, rich nectar.

The common name richweed reference the richness of its nectar which attracts an array of pollinators like the long-tailed skipper (Urbanus proteus) and sweat bee photographed at Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail …

… a wasp at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge …

… a European honeybee (Apias mollifera) at Sebastian Inlet State Park …

… and love bugs (Plecia nearctica) at the ORCA …

White crownbeard dies back to the ground in the winter and quickly re-emerges in the spring growing swiftly.  It spreads over time via rhizamotous roots as can be seen in the picture below taken in 2014 at Sebastian Inlet State Park …

White crownbeard is quite popular with pollinators, a herald of the arrival of fall, and can be a comely addition to your home landscape.