American water willow is common on gravel bars and other stream banks throughout much of Missouri. The dense colonies of emergent stems have leaves like a willow’s, but the two-lipped flowers resemble little orchids.
The flowers of water willow are nothing like the catkins of true willows. They are clustered into headlike groups and are about ¾ inch long with a notched upper lip and a 3-lobed lower lip. The upper lip is light purple, rarely white; the lower lip white or pale purple with purple markings. It blooms May through October.
Autumn sneezeweed grows in moist areas in meadows, prairies, ditches, and along streams. Like other sneezeweeds, it contains toxic, bitter substances, and grazing animals, including cattle, avoid eating it.
Sneezeweeds were used historically by Native Americans and pioneers as snuff. Inhaling the dried, powdered disk florets caused violent, prolonged sneezing, and people did this as a way of alleviating colds, stuffy noses, headache, and other maladies.
Introduced from Asia as an ornamental, beefsteak plant is common in moist or dry wooded bottomlands, open valley pastures, and along trails, railroads, and roadsides. It is edible, and red forms of it are often grown in herb gardens.
Introduced as an ornamental, this native of Asia is common in moist or dry wooded bottomlands, open valley pastures, and along trails, railroads, and roadsides. Beefsteak plant is edible, and red forms of it are often grown in herb gardens.
Our weediest sneezeweed, bitterweed arrived in Missouri in the late 1800s from its home range in Texas and Louisiana. Like our other heleniums, it has domed disks and yellow, fan-shaped, notched ray florets. Unlike them, the leaves are narrowly linear.
Bitterweed is our only sneezeweed with such very narrow leaves. Note also the many branches that form at the top part of the plant. Unlike our other sneezeweeds, this one lacks winged stems; it only has fine, rounded, lengthwise ridges. Also unlike our other sneezeweeds, it is an annual plant, not perennial, and it is not native to Missouri.
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