1303 Parthenium integrifoliumCommon Names: wild quinine,American feverfew,prairie dock Family: Asteraceae (daisy Family)
Wild quinine is an herbaceous perennial wildflower that gets up to 3-4 ft (90-120 cm) tall on an erect stem which is often branched near the top. Wild quinine forms clumps from short rhizomes that emanate from a thick, tuberous root. Leaves are ovate to lanceolate, thick and rough textured, and with coarse teeth on the margins. Basal leaves are up to 15 in (38 cm) long and carried on long petioles. Leaves on the stem are smaller and sessile. Foliage is aromatic. Little white flowerheads, each with many disc florets and just a few inconspicuous rays only 1/12 in (2 mm) long, are borne in clusters about 1/3 in (80 mm) across, the clusters grouped into a wide, flat topped corymb. The little clusters remind one of popcorn and the whole inflorescence suggest a cauliflower head. Eventually, the inflorescence turns brown as it becomes a cluster of dry achenes.
Parthenium integrifolium is native to the eastern and mid-western United States from Massachusetts, west to Minnesota, and south to Arkansas and northern Georgia. It occurs primarily in dry prairies, open woodlands, old fields, and rocky situations on the Piedmont and upper coastal plain, and infrequently in the mountains. Other species occur in western North America and the West Indies.
Light: Full sun suits wild quinine, but a little afternoon shade never hurts. Moisture: Wild quinine is a plant of dry habitats and does best in well drained soils. This is a good choice for water-wise gardening and once established, should not need supplemental irrigation. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8 . Propagation: Wild quinine is easily propagated from fresh seeds which should be planted outdoors as soon as ripe in the fall. They will germinate the following spring. Alternatively, seeds can be sown in the spring after 4-6 weeks of cold stratification.
Grow wild quinine in the native plant or natural garden, especially if the soil is dry. This is a good choice for the rock garden. Wild quinine also works in informal perennial borders. Wild quinine tolerates dry, rocky soils and is used in prairie restoration plantings. The blooming period is longer than that of many wildflowers, often lasting for two months or more. Many kinds of insects flock to the flowers, which to us seem to have no scent. The foliage is ignored by deer and rabbits.
Flowers are useful as fresh cut and also in dried arrangements. Wild quinine has been used medicinally as a diuretic, and to treat dysentery. Native Americans used a poultice of fresh leaves to treat burns. During World War I, the supply of quinine (used to treat malaria), derived from the South American tree, Cinchona officinalis, was disrupted and there began a program to extract quinine from the flowers of Parthenium integrifolium.
This is a weird looking plant to be a member of the sunflower family. From a distance, its flat topped inflorescence, makes it look like it belongs in the carrot family, Apiaceae. The flower cluster reminds me of Eryngium or coriander (Coriandrum sativum). But closer inspection reveals the disc and ray florets that characterize the Asteraceae.
Wild quinine is listed as an Endangered Species in MN, WI, PA and MD, probably because the periphery of the plant’s natural range is in these states.
Steve Christman 2/23/18