There are a few native wildflower species that you can count on every year. One you can’t miss is Cowpen Daisy, Verbesina encelioides.
Like some other fall blooming species such as the beautiful Gayfeather, vibrant Maximilian Sunflower, and the White Frostweed that often goes unnoticed growing in the shade. Cowpen Daisy is very resistant to browsing/grazing pressure. It actually contains the chemical galegine and is poisonous to animals like sheep and goats, although they won’t eat it unless there is nothing else available.
photo by Native American Seed
The Native Americans used Cowpen Daisy to treat some skin ailments and spider bites. It could be widely found throughout the prairie states and is an annual forb of about 1-3 ft tall that likes to grow in disturbed sites, hence the name. It is also frequently called Golden Crownbeard.
Cowpen daisy is a favorite to many because of the time of year that it blooms, summer to first frost, and the simple fact that it is one of the easiest yellow composite flowers to identify. The gray green foliage and its unique odor are a dead giveaway. The leaves are usually triangular shaped and have toothed margins. They will be opposite of each other on the lower part of the plant becoming alternate to each other higher up and get their gray green appearance from the covering of very fine white hairs.
Where there is one plant you will find more as they like to grow in groups, and are even referred to as weedy by those that are less appreciative. This makes for beautiful sweeping lines of yellow in the hottest driest times in Texas. Some people will smile, pause for a moment, and wonder at the grit this yellow flower must have to thrive in a Texas August.
The flower heads are up to 2 inches across and have distinct 3-toothed rays. Our native pollinators love the blooming colonies of Cowpen Daisy that provide an exceptional nectar source at a time of the year when the nectar supply can be kind of scarce. Long-tongued bees such as bumblebees, honeybees, large leaf-cutting bees, little carpenter bees & cuckoo bees find Cowpen Daisy too good to pass up.
Butterflies also take advantage of this bountiful nectar supply and Cowpen Daisy is actually a host plant for the caterpillars of the Silvery Checkerspot and the Gold Moth. Once the pollinators visit and the seeds mature our native quail, dove and turkey have a feast on the crop of seeds that fall to the ground.
Everyone is a winner with this beautiful native.