Rattlesnake-root, Cankerweed, Lion’s-foot – Flowers

(Nabalus albus) Chickory family

Flower-heads—Composite, numerous, greenish or cream white, or tinged with lilac, fragrant, nodding; borne in loose, open, narrow terminal, and axillary clusters. Each bell-like flower head only about 1/2 in. across, composed of 8 to 15 ray flowers, drooping from a cup-like involucre consisting of 8 principal, colored bracts. Stem : 2 to 5 ft. high, smooth, green or dark purplish red, leafy, from a tuberous, bitter root. Leaves : Alternate, variable, sometimes very large, broad, hastate, ovate, or heart-shaped, wavy-toothed, lobed, or palmately cleft ; upper leaves smaller, lance-shaped, entire.

Preferred Habitat—Woods ; rich, moist borders; roadsides. Flowering Season—August—September.

Distribution—Southern Canada to Georgia and Kentucky.

Nodding in graceful, open clusters from the top of a shining colored stalk, the inconspicuous little bell-like flowers of this common plant spread their rays to release the branching styles for contact with pollen-laden visitors. These styles presently become a bunch of cinnamon-colored hairs, a seed-tassel resembling a sable paint brush—the principal feature that distinguishes this species from the smaller-flowered Tall White Lettuce (N. altissimus), whose pappus is a light straw color. Both these plants are most easily recognized when their fluffy, plumed seeds are waiting for a stiff breeze to waft them to fresh colonizing ground.