Elkweed

Elkweed, courtesy of Al Schneider, Southwest Colorado Wildflowers
© Al Schneider. Courtesy of Al Schneider,  www.swcoloradowildflowers.com

Common Name(s):

Elkweed
Deer Ears
Green Gentian
Monument Plant
Showy Frasera

Scientific Name:

Frasera speciosa Dougl. ex Griseb.

Scientific Name Synonyms:

Frasera angustifolia
Frasera macrophylla
Frasera stenosepala
Swertia radiate
Tesseranthium angustifolium
Tesseranthium macrophyllum
Tesseranthium radiatum

Symbol:

FRSP

Description:

Life Span: Perennial

Origin: Native

Growth Characteristics: Elkweed is a robust and showy plant. The flower stalk, growing up to 8 feet tall, erupts from a very large basal rosette of leaves. It flowers only once in its lifetime of 20 to 80 years and then dies. The microscopically detectable flower stalk begins forming about three years before it actually erupts into its massive stalk. When flowering, it flowers from July to August.

 Flowers: Flowers are wide open, green/white, numerous, and star-like. The flowers are clustered around the stem. Blooming produces about 600 flowers per plant and about 60 seeds per flower. Each petal has two elliptical bulges composed of a myriad of minute vertical hairs. These are covered by horizontal fringes tipped in lavender. The horizontal green bulges look like green bumps. Flowers are up to ¾ inch in diameter. Long sepals appear in the clefts between four petals. Four stamens appear at the base of the petals surrounding an ovary.

Fruits/Seeds: 60 seeds per flower.

Leaves: In non-flowering plants, the leaves of the huge basal rosette are long, narrow, smooth, and pale green. The number of leaves in the swirl of basal leaves roughly corresponds to the age of the plant.   In flowering plants, the leaves along the flower stalk are also long and narrow, arranged in whorls of four to six, becoming shorter toward the top of the plant. 

Stems:  Large, pale green stem.

Roots: A fleshy, cream to yellow-colored taproot.

Ecological Adaptations:

Occurs in the foothills, montane, subalpine, and alpine zones. It is found in meadows and openings and can grow is full sun or part shade.

Soils: Soils comprised of acidic decomposed organic matter, which is found in the rich soils of open pine forest, aspen groves, etc. Elkweed prefers sandy and loamy soils and requires well-drained soil. 

Associated Species:  Douglas Fir, Blue Spruce, Limber pine, White fir, Subalpine fir, Aspen, Ponderosa Pine.

Uses and Management:

The whole plant is febrifuge, pectoral, laxative and tonic. An infusion of the dried, powdered leaves, or the root, has been used in the treatment of diarrhea. A cooled decoction of the roots has been used in the treatments of asthma, colds, digestive complaints, etc. An infusion of the plant has been used as a contraceptive. The root, when ground into a powder and then mixed with oil, has been used as a parasiticide in order to kill lice.