This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The present distribution of this plant, which is common, is Europe from Denmark southwards, and North Africa, but it is not known in deposits earlier than the present day. In Great Britain it is found in the Peninsula, Channel, Thames, Anglia, and Severn provinces generally, in S. Wales except in Cardigan, in North Wales except in Montgomery and Merioneth, and in the Trent, Mersey, Humber, Tyne, and Lakes provinces. In Scotland it is found in the W. Lowlands except in Renfrew, Lanark, in Berwick, Haddington, Stirling, Clyde Islands, Cantire, S. Ebudes, E. Ross. It is rare in Scotland, but common in Ireland.
Fleabane is a common hygrophyte, delighting in all damp places, such as the vicinity of ponds, lakes, and meres. It grows frequently beside brooks, rivers, and ditches, and in the reed-swamp. It is also a common member of marsh and bog formations.
Growing in extensive patches in damp places this common autumn wild flower has an erect, much-branched stem, rigid and downy or cottony. The leaves are alternate, close, oblong, lance-shaped, heart-shaped, or arrow-shaped at the base, and clasping the stem, rough above, downy or cottony below. The numerous branches are erect, the upper ones longer than those below.
The flowerheads are yellow, conspicuous, large in proportion to the size of the plant, numerous, in flat corymbose heads, terminal and axillary. The 100 ray florets in a single row are much longer than those in the disk, which are complete and 600 in number. The involucral scales or phyllaries are bristle-like. The fruit is angular, the pappus is hairy, and the outer pappus is minutely scalloped and dirty-white.
The stems are usually 18 in. high. The flowers are late, opening in August and continuing through September onward. Fleabane is a herbaceous perennial increased by division.
There are more than 600 florets in the disk containing both stamens and pistil, the tube being 4 mm. long, narrow below, enlarged at the mouth, with 5 triangular teeth. The honey can be reached by insects with a moderately-sized proboscis. The stigm-atic lobes project beyond the cylinder, and spread horizontally and close above the corolla, where the pollen lies in the first stage. Many florets can be pollinated at one visit. The style is covered with stigmatic papillae on the inside, and the upper part (one-third) with hairs (directed obliquely upwards along the edges of the triangular valves of the upper end of the anther cylinder), which are unicellular, longer and thicker than the sweeping hairs of the style, and serve to hold the pollen swept out of the anther cylinder. The ray florets are nearly 100 in number, and possess a pistil only, exactly like that of the disk florets. They do not contain pollen and do not set seeds. They have an outer golden lobe 5-7 mm., with a tube 2-3, and the style protrudes as in the disk with sweeping hairs. The visitors belong to Hymenoptera, Heriades, Ha/ictus; Diptera, Eristalis, Melithreptes; Lepidoptera, Polyommatus, Lycaena, Small Skipper, Hesperia thaumas; Coleoptera, Cassida. Such flowers having both female and complete florets are termed gyno-moncecious.
The pappus is short and unequal, but the achenes by its means are entirely adapted for dispersal by the wind.
Photo. Dr. Somerville Hastings - Fleabane (Pulicaria Dysenterica, Gray)
Fleabane is essentially a peat-loving plant growing in wet ground which is more or less peaty, or else it is a clay-loving plant and grows on a clay soil. It is common, in fact, on lias and boulder clay.
A cluster-cup fungus, Uromyces junci, infests the leaves.
The beetles, Meligethes lumbaris, Cassida fastuosa, feed upon it.
It is a food plant for several moths, Ebulea crocealis, Choreutis vibrana, Halonota inopiana, Sericoris fuligana, Eupaecilia griseana, Gelechia bifractella, B. paupella, B. mope/la, Acrolepia granite//a, Coleophora troglodytella, Pterophorus lithodactylus.
Pulicaria was given it from the Latin pulex, a flea (like the English Fleabane), because it was said to drive away these pests, and the second Latin name refers to another supposed property, namely, the cure of dysentery.
It is called Cammock, Herb Christopher, Fleabane Millet. Gerarde says as to the second name: "In Cheape side the herbewomen call it Herbe Christopher, and sell it to empericks, who with it (as they say) make medicines for the eyes, but against what effect of them, or with what successe, I know not". It is called Job's Tears in Arabic, because Job was supposed to have cured his ulcers with this herb. The specific name alludes to the so-called curing of dysentery amongst the Russian soldiers by its aid. Like Ploughman's Spikenard, if burnt, our forefathers said it drove away fleas and other insects. It was once also employed to cure the itch. Cattle will not touch it. It is very astringent, and the juice is saltish.
Essential Specific Characters:155. Pulicaria dysenterica, Gray. - Stem woolly, branched, leaves oblong, downy, wrinkled, flowerheads yellow, in a corymb, ray florets wider than disk, pappus crenulate.