White Crownbeard

Photo of white crownbeard plant with flowers
Scientific Name
Verbesina virginica
Asteraceae (daisies)

White crownbeard is a tall perennial with winged stalks. The wings are extension of leaf tissue. The flowerheads are small, clustered terminally, 1–1½ inches across with few (1–5) ray florets, and white. Blooms August–October. The leaves are alternate, oval to lance-shaped, to 7 inches long, with short fine hairs above and hairier below, also with widely spaced, small teeth.

Similar species: There are 3 other species of Verbesina in our state, but they all have yellow, not white flowers. One of these, yellow ironweed (V. alternifolia), is also famous as a "frost flower" plant.

Common Name Synonyms
Wingstem; Frostweed
Height: to 7 feet.
Where To Find
image of White Crownbeard Wingstem Frostweed distribution map
Scattered south of the Missouri River.
Occurs on banks of streams and rivers, bluff bases, bottomland and upland forests, pastures, railroads, and roadsides. This plant is called "frostweed" because it often forms spectacular "frost flowers" in the fall, when a sudden overnight freeze causes the stems to burst and release quantities of sap, which freezes into intricate ribbons or flowerlike shapes that can be about 4 inches in diameter. Look for these formations early in the morning after a sudden first hard freeze.
One of the most popular hobbies in the world is photography. It’s satisfying to make great pictures, but with nature photography, it’s great fun simply to be outdoors hunting for beautiful subjects such as “frost flowers” on a bracing, clear autumn morning.
Members of the sunflower family that bloom late in the season provide nectar to many butterflies and other insects. The monarch and cloudless sulphur, for example, are butterflies that migrate south in late summer and fall, and they rely on plants like this to provide their nourishment.
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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!