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Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia)

Also known as yellow ironweed.

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Wingstem, sometimes called Yellow ironweed because of superficial resemblance to true ironweeds, is a tall perennial plant native to North America, with showy, yellow flowers. The common name references the "winged" or ridged stems.

Range - Expand


This tentative map is based on the FHWA's ERA. This data lacks information on Canada, but also overestimates native ranges, especially around the edges, as this post explains. We have not yet reviewed or fixed this map.

USDA Plants Profile for Verbesina alternifolia

Illinois Wildflowers Page for Verbesina alternifolia

Description & Identification

A perennial plant to 2.5m (~8ft) tall, with conspicuously winged stems, unbranching until the inflorescence, growing straight and supporting their own weight.

Flowerheads are numerous (10-100 per stem), consisting of daisy-like compound flowers with relatively few yellow rays and numerous greenish-yellow disk florets. Flowerheads often have raggedy, irregular appearance with many flowers holding onto as few as 2 ray florets. Although the foliage is very different, flowerheads resemble a smaller version of Rudbeckia laciniata, which blooms earlier and sometimes occurs in similar habitats.

Although plants nearly always show alternate leaf arrangement at maturity, newly sprouted and young first-year plants can have opposite leaves.

Similar Plants


Moist, open areas in deciduous woodlands, including floodplains, clearings, and woodland borders.

Life Cycle

Wingstem often reaches over half its full height during the first year, and blooms and has good seed production even in the first year. However, it is perennial and will often grow taller in subsequent years. It often forms colonies with numerous stems.

The seeds mature late in fall. They are realtively large and have both wings and awns. Wind carries them only a small distance from the parent plant; they may also be carried farther distances by sticking to animals.

Seeds germinate after a period of cold dormancy. The germination rate is high and newly-germinated plants are often able to push up through some competing vegetation, but they must reach some direct sunlight to survive.


Uncommonly used in gardening, primarily in native plant gardens and wildflower meadows. Its large size and aggressive nature makes it unsuitable for some garden settings.

There are numerous Verbesina species in North America, but most have more limited distributions. Some are locally abundant and overlap with this species' range.

Verbesina occidentalis is common from Virginia to South Carolina, with only sparse distribution a bit south and west of that. Verbesina helianthoides is common from Illinois through Louisiana, but not distributed much farther east and west. The very different-looking Verbesina encelioides is common in the southwestern U.S. The white-flowering Verbesina virginica is common from Southern Missouri and southeastern Kansas, south to Texas and Florida.

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