Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Heartleaf Golden-Alexanders - Zizia aptera   (A. Gray) Fernald
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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Author(A. Gray) Fernald
DistributionPresent throughout the Mountains and the Piedmont, but of spotty occurrence in the latter province. Barely ranges east into the edge of the Coastal Plain.

This is a wide-ranging species, from coast to coast. It occurs from NY and WA south to western FL and NV.
AbundanceFrequent in the Mountains, but mostly infrequent in the Piedmont. Very rare in the western edge of the Coastal Plain.
HabitatThis is a species of wooded openings, wooded margins, roadbanks, and other partly shaded places. It prefers moist or rich soil than dry soil.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits in July and August.
IdentificationThis is a sparingly branched herb growing to about 2 feet tall. It looks nothing like the other two Zizia species, but closely resembles Thaspium trifoliatum, so care must be taken to separate these two. Both species have a simple basal leaf, cordate to orbicular, about 1.5-2 inches across with a serrated margin, and a long petiole of 2-3 inches, at least. Each has stem leaves that are alternate but only once-divided into 3 leaflets, with the leaflets of variable shape (ovate to rounded), 1-2 inches long and somewhat narrower. Each has yellow and flat-topped umbels, as well. In this species, the teeth on the leaflets are rather acute as opposed to obtuse (blunter) in the Thaspium; the leaflet margins are often ciliate (use a hand lens), but both have a hyaline (thin and colorless) margin; the lower portion of the stem is softly pubescent (as opposed to smooth in Thaspium); and the rays in each umbel are 7-15, as opposed to 4-10 rays in Thaspium. One variety of Thaspium (var. trifoliatum) has maroon flowers, easily separating the two. Note that in Thaspium, the central flower in each umbellet has a distinct stalk, whereas in Zizia species the central flower usually is sessile; you may need a hand lens to see this character. In general, the Thaspium species have a more open umbel, with longer and/or fewer rays, such that each umbellet is widely spaced from others; in Zizia, the umbels are more dense, with more or shorter rays, such that one umbellet nearly touches another.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Heartleaf Meadow-parsnip, Meadow Zizia, Prairie Golden-Alexanders. There is no near-unanimous common name for this species. In general, the genus Zizia has a common name of "golden-Alexanders", with the Thaspium being named as "meadow-parsnip".
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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