American Feverfew

Parthenium integrifolium

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Photo of American feverfew flower cluster.
The flowerheads of American feverfew grow in flat-topped or slightly rounded, fuzzy white clusters about ¼ inch wide.
Other Common Name
Wild Quinine
Family

Asteraceae (daisies)

Description

American feverfew, or wild quinine, is a perennial herb with stems single, usually unbranched below the flower cluster. It sometimes grows in colonies. The flowerheads are in flat-topped or slightly rounded, fuzzy white clusters about ¼ inch wide. The ray florets are few, tiny, and inconspicuous. Blooms May–September. The basal and lower stem leaves are aromatic, to 8 inches long and 4 inches wide, tapering into long petioles (leaf stems), elliptical to broadly ovate, roughened with short, stiff hairs, with a coarsely toothed or scalloped margin. Leaves and stems have tiny spherical yellow glands.

Similar species: Two varieties of this species are sometimes considered as separate species: Variety hispidum (sometimes called P. hispidum) is usually colonial, with several stems arising from a branching rhizome; the stems moderately to densely hairy with short, stiff, spreading hair, and the leaves with rather dense, spreading hairs along the undersurface midvein. Variety integrifolium is usually not colonial, with the rootstock somewhat thickened and tuberous, occasionally with a short rhizome; the stems are hairless or if hairy, then with short, soft, loosely ascending hairs; hairs on midveins on undersides of leaves more or less appressed.

Size

Height: to 3 feet.

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Photo of American feverfew plant with flower cluster.
American Feverfew (Wild Quinine)
American feverfew, or wild quinine, was once used medicinally. Today we enjoy it as a component of high-quality upland prairie.

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Photo of a male indigo bunting perched on a bloooming American feverfew plant.
Indigo Bunting Perched on American Feverfew
Look for indigo buntings and American feverfew in the same kinds of relatively open habitats.
Habitat and conservation

American feverfew occurs in glades, upland prairies, rocky open woods, forest openings, ledges and tops of bluffs, savannas, pastures, and roadsides. This native plant is a characteristic species of high-quality upland prairie plant communities.

image of Amerian Feverfew Wild Quinine Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Scattered nearly statewide, but uncommon or absent from the northwestern quarter.

Human connections

The names feverfew and wild quinine indicate that the plant was used medicinally. Some Native American tribes made a poultice of the leaves to use for treating burns. Apparently the plant was also used as a diuretic. Today people plant it as part of a prairie restoration or native wildflower garden.

Ecosystem connections

Insects visit the flowers for pollen and nectar. This plant is rarely eaten by mammals because of its coarse texture and bitter-tasting chemicals in the leaves.