Zizia aurea (Golden Alexanders)
|Also known as:||Golden Zizia|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist fields, thickets, rich open woods, along streams|
|Bloom season:||May - July|
|Plant height:||1 to 3 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FAC MW: FAC NCNE: FAC|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Flowers are in flat-topped clusters (umbels) 2 to 3 inches across, in 10 to 18 groups (umbellets) of up to 20 flowers each. Individual flowers are about 1/8 inch across with 5 yellow petals that fold inward and 5 yellow stamens.
Leaves are 2 or 3 times compound in groups of 3. Leaflets are to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, with sharply toothed edges and pointed tips. The end leaflet is largest and usually tapers to a narrow base, though leaflet shape varies and may be oval, egg shaped, irregular, lobed or divided into 2 or 3 parts.
Golden Alexanders often grow in colonies. In late spring and early summer it is a common sight across Minnesota in open prairies, woodland edges, and roadsides with adequate moisture. There are several related species with similar yellow flower clusters but only the Zizia species have a stalkless flower in the center of an umblet—other genera have all-stalked flowers. This trait can be seen when either flowers or fruits are present. Of the similar species, Heart-leaved Alexanders (Zizia aptera) has long-stalked, undivided, heart-shaped lower leaves. Yellow Pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima) has rather airier clusters and toothless leaflets. Hairy-jointed Meadow Parsnip (Thaspium barbinode) has winged fruits, and minute hairs around the leaf nodes and at the base of the umbel. Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), a highly invasive species found across Minnesota, is a much larger plant (often 4-5+ feet tall) with a larger flower cluster (to 8 inches across), duller, somewhat greenish-yellow flowers, once-compound leaves with up to 15 leaflets, and it blooms later, typically just emerging when Golden Alexanders are in full bloom.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Golden Alexanders plant
- more plants
- roadside stand of Golden Alexanders
- garden grown Golden Alexanders
- Golden Alexanders with emerging Wild Parsnip
- twice compound leaves
- maturing fruit, before splitting
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and along a roadside in Aitkin County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?