- Family (English) Aster
- Family (botanic) Asteraceae
- Tree or plant type Perennial
- Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
- Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
- Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
- Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
- Tolerances Clay soil, Occasional flooding
- Season of interest late summer, early fall
- Flower color and fragrance Yellow
- Shape or form Upright
- Growth rate Moderate
- Wildlife Butterflies, Insect pollinators
Wingstem has somewhat strange, pincushion-like, yellow flowers that create interest from late summer to early fall. It prefers well-drained, moist soils that are high in organic matter in full sun to partial shade. A rain garden, cottage garden, native garden, pollinator garden, prairie, or meadow would be appropriate for this unique, somewhat untidy perennial. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region and current research.
Size and method of spreading:
Wingstem is between 4 to 8 feet tall and 2 to 6 feet wide at maturity. It spreads readily by self-seeding and producing offsets via short underground stem structures (rhizomes).
Native geographic location and habitat: (include C-value if appropriate)
The native range of wingstem includes areas of the Eastern, Central, and Southern United States. C Value: 5.
Attracts birds or pollinators:
Wingstem attracts a number of long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers.
The medium yellow-green leaves of wingstem are up to 2 ½ inches across and 10 inches long (lanceolate or narrowly elliptical) with strongly tapered tips and bases. They alternate up the stem, but the lowermost leaves may occur in opposite pairs. The base of the leaf typically extends down the stem from the point of connection, forming a pair of wings. The edges of the leaves can have sawlike teeth that point forward (serrate margins), more outwardly pointing teeth (dentate margins), or they can be smooth (entire margins). Short, stiff hairs give the upper and lower surfaces a rough texture.
Like other members of the aster family, wingstem flower heads are a composite of two types of flowers. There are zero to 10 yellow, petal-like ray flowers that surround a center of 40 to 80 yellow disk flowers. Each flower head is approximately 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Wingstem flowers are a bit untidy looking compared to other daisylike flowers. The disk flowers of wingstem protrude and have a hemispherical shape, like thick pins in a pincushion. The ray flowers are somewhat irregular. The ray flowers typically have a notch at the tip, and they have a tendency to droop a bit. Surrounding the base of the flower heads are layers of small bracts. The flower heads occur in large, loosely branched, domed groups of eight to 25 (panicles). The flower stalks (peduncles) and bracts are covered in short hairs (pubescent).
The fruit of wingstem plants are small, flat, and dry, often with broad, papery wings along the edges (achenes). At the tip, two slender protrusions (awns) stick up like antennae. When they are immature, they are green, but they mature to a dark brown. The surfaces of the achenes are hairless (glabrous) to sparsely covered in short, stiff hairs (pubescent). The wind helps to distribute the achenes.
Wingstem prefers well-drained, moist soils that are high in organic matter. Full sun or partial shade is acceptable. Maintaining good air circulation around the plants will help to prevent powdery mildew issues. In ideal conditions, wingstem may spread readily and require division.
List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:
Wingstem is not susceptible to major pest issues. Powdery mildew may cause leaf damage. In well-drained soils, wingstem can tolerate some flooding. It is deer and rabbit resistant.