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American Feverfew or Wild Quinine is a midsummer blooming native wildflower throughout
the eastern states. (Image courtesy Gerald Klingaman)
Over the years I've relied on the botanical group of the plant family to help me understand
plants and relate new and unfamiliar species to those I know. For several years I've
walked by plantings of Wild Quinine or American Feverfew (Parthenium integrifolium) without really stopping to observe it up close. As I researched the web for this
piece, I was surprised to find it belonged to the old, large daisy family.
American feverfew is an herbaceous perennial growing 2 to 4 feet tall when in flower
in midsummer. It ranges throughout the eastern states from Texas to New England where
it occurs in dry, forest glades or in open, exposed prairie sites. It is one of 16
species found in the New World with three species found in Arkansas. American feverfew
is the most widely distributed species and the only one that seems to be grown in
In a good site wild quinine can be long lived, producing a rosette of large, coarse
textured serrate leaves to 6 inches long. In early summer it sends forth an erect
growing stem with smaller, alternately arranged leaves. The leaves are aromatic when
crushed and sandpapery in texture. Plants produce a deep taproot with the crown spreading
horizontally via short rhizomes.
The flower heads are pearly white and about one-third of an inch across and borne
in flat- topped clusters. The head is composed of short disk flowers with very few
small, ray flowers produced in each head. It looks as if the flower is always on the
verge of opening up and showing more but it never does. The inflorescence branches
from the base and the plant remains in bloom from mid-June until mid-August. Because
the head has all ray flowers, the inflorescence makes a good dried wildflower.
Wild Quinine doesn't much look like a member of the daisy family but it is. (Image
courtesy Gerald Klingaman)
American feverfew has a long history of use in medicine. The Quapaw Indians used its
crushed leaves as a poultice for burns and made a concoction to treat horses. Early
European settlers, because of its bitter taste, used it to treat various internal
ailments. Supposedly in World War I a shortage of quinine, extracted from the bark
of a tropical tree, was feared so leaves of this plant were stockpiled in anticipation
of a need that never materialized. The wild quinine name seems to have originated
about this time, supplanting the feverfew name.
American feverfew is a good addition to background sites around the garden where a
tough survivor is needed. It should have at least six hours of sunlight and a well-drained
soil. Wet soils tend to hasten its demise. It is a good addition to a native prairie,
a wildflower border or the front of a west facing woodlot. Propagation is primarily
by seed, which should be stratified for six to eight weeks before planting.
(468 words )
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired Retired Extension Horticulturist - OrnamentalsExtension News - July 25, 2014
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists
of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery
or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing