Wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexander, It’s Freakin’ Golden

To paraphrase a former Illinois Governor, “It’s freakin’ golden, and I’m not gonna give it away for nothing.” If only he had been referring to the native wildflower Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea), he would never have gotten into so much trouble with federal prosecutors. And he would have been fully justified in placing a high value on this useful perennial. Golden Alexander is not a dramatic plant, but it does have many virtues: attractive, easy to grow, and extremely adaptable.

Golden Alexander
Golden Alexander

A member of the carrot family, Golden Alexander has flat umbels made up of tiny yellow flowers.  In a mass, these umbels can have impact, even at a distance. Bloom time is generally late spring and early summer.

The foliage is deep green, lance or oval-shaped.

Golden Alexander
Golden Alexander at the far end of the sidewalk border.

Golden Alexander is native to large areas of eastern and central USA and Canada. It’s natural habitats are moist prairies and open woods. In the garden, I’ve found that it will grow in part shade or sun, moist or slightly dry soils. It requires no special attention. In fact, in rich soils it can grow far larger than its normal height of 1-3′, so that I often find myself cutting it back.

Golden Alexander’s foliage provides a restful green backdrop for summer and fall blooming flowers. The flowers form interesting seed heads during this period. You can cut down the seed heads to avoid self-sowing. On the other hand, Golden Alexander doesn’t get obnoxious about spreading by seed, and the seedlings are easily pulled.

Golden Alexander, Wild Geranium
Golden Alexander with Wild Geranium

In terms of wildlife value, Golden Alexander is a host plant for the Black Swallowtail butterfly, and the flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Thanks to Gail at Clay and Limestone for hosting Wildflower Wednesday.

45 Comments on “Wildflower Wednesday: Golden Alexander, It’s Freakin’ Golden”

  1. Thanks for the nice read. I can’t seem to find my Zizia aurea this year. I might have planted a bush over it (oops!) but was hoping to see signs of it again. It’s one of the very first perennials I ever planted in my garden.

  2. Hello there, Jason. I’m not familiar with this plant but I was instantly thinking it would be one for a nectar bar and bees would love it. I love your planting with wild geranium – I’m guessing that’s cranesbill? I enjoy that in my garden too 🙂

  3. I think these flowers are also eaten by birds because I am finding many such flowerheads sreap around in my backyard; I don’t have it; neither of my neighbors have them. So, those must be brought by birds. Again a beautiful shot of your garden.

  4. You had me laughing with your opening paragraph! Ha! Soooo true! On to the Golden Alexander…what an awesome plant!!! You sold me on it! What a lovely backdrop in the garden and with it being low maintenance that is a double score!!! Thanks for sharing this one!

  5. Nice plant, Jason, you are reminding me that I’m in desperate need of more umbels for my garden, somehow it’s kind of uneasy to have plants with long tap roots established on my heavy clay. I must get around this issue this year because umbels are so nice when they form a bushy cloud like your Golden Alexander…

  6. I have a plant growing in my native shade garden that I’ve long thought was wild parsnip. I take pains to keep it weeded, but it sends out runners among the wild ginger, wild geraniums and woodland poppies. I haven’t been to the point where I’ve let it bloom, but now I’m wondering if it is golden alexander? The stems are triangular or square. judy

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