Common fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica
 
FamilyAsteraceae, Daisy family
Perennial – up to 60 cm tall, spreading
Flowering – July to September
Soil  -   wet clay or loam
Sun  -  full sun or partial shade
 
 
 
Common fleabane grows in a variety of damp open habitats, including the margins of damp ditches, marshes, damp grassland and open woodland throughout England and Wales but rarely in Scotland. Its bright yellow button-like daisy flowers, held on grey-green downy leafy stems, are a delight to see in late summer when many surrounding flowers are past their best. It has thick underground runners that ensure the plant persists and spreads if conditions are right for it.
 
Common fleabane was formally recorded – as Coniza media – by Mathew L’Obel in 1571, and by John Gerard in 1597 as growing ‘in everie waterie ditch’.1.  The genus name derives from the Latin "pulex" for flea, and as its species name implies it was at one time used as a cure for dysentery. Nicholas Culpeper wrote that the juice of the whole plant is used to cure itching. As its common name suggests, it also has had a reputation for deterring fleas. The smoke from burning the plant was said to drive away fleas, gnats and other insects2. while Culpeper states ‘the very smell of the herb is said to destroy fleas’.3. As such it would also have been used as a strewing herb, perhaps one of the ‘Daisies of all sorts’ included in Thomas Tusser’s list of ‘Strewing herbs of all sorts’ 4.  It used to be classed in the genus Inula which includes native Inula conyzae  plus several similar naturalised and garden species.
 
A bright addition to the garden, common fleabane will grow near pond edges or any dampish meadow areas in the garden. Grow from seed in autumn and plant out the following year, or buy nursery-grown stock as plugs or pots. Be aware of its underground runners.
 
The flowers of common fleabane attract a variety of pollinating insects including bees and hoverflies, and late-flying garden butterflies such as gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus and meadow brown Maniola jurtina. It is the main host plant of the tephritid fly  Myopites inulaedyssentericae.5.  As with others in its family this scarce but attractive picture-winged fly feeds off flower heads as an adult, and lays eggs on the flower. The larvae produce a discreet gall in the flower. As its names suggests this fly is associated mainly with common fleabane and also the nationally scarce golden samphire Limbarda crithmoides, which is closely related to fleabane.
 
Common fleabane is one of a range of host plants for the powered quaker moth Orthosia gracilis, whose main food plant is bog myrtle and sallows as well as other plants in the marshy vicinity. Along with ploughman’s spikenard Inula conyzae it is the main food plant for the small marbled Eublemma parva, a migrant species from Europe which occasionally arrives in the south of England in June and July (along with the similar purple marbled E. ostrina and scarce marbled E. minutata). It is also host to several micro moths including the attractively marked Tebenna micalis which was discovered as recently as the 1980s – and is related to the nettle tap Anthophila fabriciana commonly found around nettles.6.
 
 
1.  Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p 329
 
2.  Henslow, J.S. (1910). British Wild Flowers in their Natural Colours and Form. London
 
3.  Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician. (1826). This edition published in 2003.      Greenwich Editions. London.. p 234
 
4.  Mavor, W.F. ed. (1819). Tusser,T. Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry together with a Book of Huswifery. Cambridge Library Collection. Cambridge University Press. p 121
 
5.  See the Biological Record Centre database
 
6.  UKmoths website
 
 
Page written by Caroline Ware.  Compiled by Steve Head
 
Common fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica
 
FamilyAsteraceae, Daisy family
Perennial – up to 60 cm tall, spreading
Flowering – July to September
Soil  -   wet clay or loam
Sun  -  full sun or partial shade
 
 
 
Common fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica
 
 
FamilyAsteraceae, Daisy family
Perennial – up to 60 cm tall, spreading
Flowering – July to September
Soil  -   wet clay or loam
Sun  -  full sun or partial shade
 
 
 
Common fleabane grows in a variety of damp open habitats, including the margins of damp ditches, marshes, damp grassland and open woodland throughout England and Wales but rarely in Scotland. Its bright yellow button-like daisy flowers, held on grey-green downy leafy stems, are a delight to see in late summer when many surrounding flowers are past their best. It has thick underground runners that ensure the plant persists and spreads if conditions are right for it.
 
Common fleabane was formally recorded – as Coniza media – by Mathew L’Obel in 1571, and by John Gerard in 1597 as growing ‘in everie waterie ditch’.1.  The genus name derives from the Latin "pulex" for flea, and as its species name implies it was at one time used as a cure for dysentery Nicholas Culpeper wrote that the juice of the whole plant is used to cure itching. As its common name suggests, it also has had a reputation for deterring fleas. The smoke from burning the plant was said to drive away fleas, gnats and other insects2. while Culpeper states ‘the very smell of the herb is said to destroy fleas’.3. As such it would also have been used as a strewing herb, perhaps one of the ‘Daisies of all sorts’ included in Thomas Tusser’s list of ‘Strewing herbs of all sorts’ 4.  It used to be classed in the genus Inula which includes native Inula conyzae  plus several similar naturalised and garden species.
 
A bright addition to the garden, common fleabane will grow near pond edges or any dampish meadow areas in the garden. Grow from seed in autumn and plant out the following year, or buy nursery-grown stock as plugs or pots. Be aware of its underground runners.
 
The flowers of common fleabane attract a variety of pollinating insects including bees and hoverflies, and late-flying garden butterflies such as gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus and meadow brown Maniola jurtina. It is the main host plant of the tephritid fly  Myopites inulaedyssentericae.5.  As with others in its family this scarce but attractive picture-winged fly feeds off flower heads as an adult, and lays eggs on the flower. The larvae produce a discreet gall in the flower. As its names suggests this fly is associated mainly with common fleabane and also the nationally scarce golden samphire Limbarda crithmoides, which is closely related to fleabane.
 
Common fleabane is one of a range of host plants for the powered quaker moth Orthosia gracilis, whose main food plant is bog myrtle and sallows as well as other plants in the marshy vicinity. Along with ploughman’s spikenard Inula conyzae it is the main food plant for the small marbled Eublemma parva, a migrant species from Europe which occasionally arrives in the south of England in June and July (along with the similar purple marbled E. ostrina and scarce marbled E. minutata). It is also host to several micro moths including the attractively marked Tebenna micalis which was discovered as recently as the 1980s – and is related to the nettle tap Anthophila fabriciana commonly found around nettles.6.
 
References
 
1. Pearman, D. (2017). The Discovery of the Native Flora of Britain and Ireland, A compilation of the first records for 1670 species and aggregates, covering Great Britain, Ireland, The Channel Isles and the Isle of Man. Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland. p329
 
2.  Henslow, J.S. (1910). British Wild Flowers in their Natural Colours and Form. London
 
3.  Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician. (1826). This edition published in 2003.      Greenwich Editions. London.. p 234
 
4.  Mavor, W.F. ed. (1819). Tusser,T. Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry together with a Book of Huswifery. Cambridge Library Collection. Cambridge
University Press. p 121
 
5.  See the Biological Record Centre database
 
6.  UKmoths website
 
 
Page written by Caroline Ware.  Compiled by Steve Head
 
       Garden Wildplants
             Garden Wildplants