Aster family (Asteraceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is 1-3½' tall and unbranched, except near the apex where the flowering stems occur. The stems are round and covered with fine white hairs. They are initially green, but often become brown with age. The alternate leaves are up to 4" long and 1½" across. They are sessile against the stem toward the top, but have short petioles near the bottom. These leaves are lanceolate, smooth or sparingly dentate, grey- or yellow-green, and finely pubescent. The smaller leaves near the flowerheads are much reduced in size and linear. Sometimes there are small leaves appearing in the upper axils of the larger leaves along the central stem.
The upper stems terminate in small corymbs of flowerheads. These flowerheads consist of 7-21 small creamy white florets. A floret is narrowly tubular with 5 small lobes and a protruding divided style. Each flowerhead is subtended by a cylinder of narrow green bracts; it is a little less than ½" long. The blooming period occurs during late summer or early fall, and lasts about a month. The achenes are long and cylindrical, grey or light brown, and have tufts of white hair (or sometimes tawny hair). These tufts of hair are often more striking in appearance than the flowers. Seed distribution is provided by the wind. The root system consists of a central taproot that can run deep into the ground. Sometimes, this plant will tiller at the base, sending up multiple stems from the taproot. However, it doesn't reproduce vegetatively by means of rhizomes, unlike many other prairie plants.
Cultivation: The preference is full sun and dry conditions; a little shade is also tolerated. This plant prefers poor soil that contains too much clay, sand, or gravel, and can thrive on slopes. It tolerates drought better than most other prairie plants. The leaves may turn yellow and start to shrivel away toward the end of the year, but this is normal. This plant doesn't spread aggressively.
Range & Habitat: False Boneset occurs occasionally in central and northern Illinois; in many areas of southern Illinois, it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution Map). Habitat includes dry upland areas of black soil prairies, gravel prairies, dolomite prairies, clay prairies, hill prairies, bluffs, limestone glades, open woodlands, and sandy savannas. False Boneset doesn't form large colonies, but is more likely to occur as sporadic plants. In moist areas with rich soil, it has trouble competing with taller, more aggressive plants.
Faunal Associations: The insects that visit False Boneset are probably quite similar to the insects that visit Eupatorium altissimum (Tall Boneset), given the similarity of the flowers, habitat preferences, and blooming period of these two species. Thus, the flowers of False Boneset attract long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and skippers. Mammalian herbivores eat False Boneset occasionally when little else is available, but its food value is low. In pastures, False Boneset is considered an 'increaser' because livestock are not particularly fond of it.
Photographic Location: The photographs were taken at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, Illinois.
Comments: False Boneset is similar in appearance to Tall Boneset. However, the former plant has alternate leaves along its stems with only one conspicuous vein, while the latter has opposite leaves with three conspicuous veins. An older scientific name for this plant is Kuhnia eupatorioides.