This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flower-heads - Large, yellow, solitary or a few, 2 to 4 in. across, on long, stout peduncles; the scaly green involucre nearly 1 in. high, holding disk florets surrounded by a fringe of long, very narrow, 3-toothed ray florets. Stem: Usually unbranched, 2 to 6 ft. high, hairy above. Leaves: Alternate, large, broadly oblong, pointed, saw-edged, rough above, woolly beneath; some with heart-shaped, clasping bases.
Preferred Habitat - Roadsides, fields, fence rows, damp pastures.
Flowering Season - July - September.
Distribution - Nova Scotia to the Carolinas, and westward to Minnesota and Missouri.
"September may be described as the month of tall weeds," says John Burroughs. " Where they have been suffered to stand, along fences, by roadsides, and in forgotten corners, - redroot, ragweed, vervain, golden-rod, burdock, elecampane, thistles, teasels, nettles, asters, etc., - how they lift themselves upas if not afraid to be seen now! They are all outlaws; every man's hand is against them; yet how surely they hold their own! They love the roaside, because here they are comparatively safe; and ragged and dusty, like the common tramps that they are, they form one of the characteristic features of early fall."
Yet the elecampane has not always led a vagabond existence. Once it had its passage paid across the Atlantic, because special virtue was attributed to its thick, mucilaginous roots as a horse-medicine. For over two thousand years it has been employed by home doctors in Europe and Asia; and at first Old World immigrants thought they could not live here without the plant on their farms. Once given a chance to naturalize itself, no composite is slow in seizing it. The vigorous elecampane, rearing its fringy, yellow disks above lichen-covered stone walls in New England, the Virginia rail fence, and the rank weedy growth along barbed-wire barriers farther west, now bids fair to cross the continent.