Erechtites hieraciifolius (Pilewort)

Plant Info
Also known as: American Burnweed, Fireweed
Genus:Erechtites
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil, along roads, along shores, open woods
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 8 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Clusters of bud-like flowers at the top of the stem and the end of branches arising from leaf axils near the top of the plant. Flowers are about a ¼ across and petal-less, with 2 sets of bracts. The inner bracts, often with purplish tips, form a ½-inch tube exposing just the yellowish to creamy white stamens at the top. The base of the tube is swollen with a few short thread-like outer bracts attached at the bottom. Early flowers heads are in a tight cylindrical cluster at the end of the main stem but as the plant matures and side branches proliferate, clusters become more open, with single flowers at the ends of long naked stalks.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are to 8 inches long and 3 inches wide, crisp and fragile, lower ones are broad lance shaped, tapered to a short stalk, shallow to deeply lobed with jagged teeth around the edges, sparsely hairy on the underside along the midrib, becoming smaller and stalkless or clasping as they ascend the stem. Stems are brittle and erect, round with vertical ridges, smooth or with sparse speading hairs. A single large main stem when young, but forming many upper flowering branches with age.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a brown seed with a tuft of bright white hairs to carry it off in the wind. The base of the floral tube swells even more as seed develops, and the inner bracts open up and flare out to release the seed.

Notes:

An early pioneer species on disturbed sites, Pilewort shows up often around human habitations. I've seen large populations erupt in wetalnd restoration sites when more dominant species, such as cattails, have been repressed. It seems to have a preference for moist soil but is found in drier habitats as well. Overall, the plant resembles the wild lettuces (Lactuca spp.) but is only distantly related. Flowers of the various lettuce species open up and have numerous ray flowers (petals).

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!
  • Shooting Star Native Seeds - Native Prairie Grass and Wildflower Seeds
  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Gretchen - Pine County, St. Croix State Park
on: 2013-07-02 13:16:05

St. Croix State Park following logging.

Posted by: bruce - Minnetonka
on: 2015-07-21 20:46:34

After clearing away lots of buckthorn and other invasives, this plant, along with other native first-comers, has started to become much more prevalent on our property. I am happy to know that is is a native species.

Posted by: Roger - Ramsey County - South Shoreview
on: 2015-09-07 11:01:48

This has appeared under the shade of old lilacs. Also, I saw it under pines in the Pine Tree Collection at the MN Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.

Posted by: Matthew - NEW BRIGHTON
on: 2017-08-25 01:08:44

Several appeared in our front yard this summer after we cleared the lawn last fall and planted a native seed mix. They weren't in the mix, they apparently just liked the yard without it's turf.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.



(required)




Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.