Elephantopus elatus

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Elephantopus elatus
Elephantopus elatus.jpg
Photo taken by Kevin Robertson
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae ⁄ Compositae
Genus: Elephantopus
Species: E. elatus
Binomial name
Elephantopus elatus
ELEP ELAT dist.jpg
Natural range of Elephantopus elatus from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: tall elephantsfoot; southern elephant's-foot

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: none.[1]

Varieties: none[1]


A description of Elephantopus elatus is provided in The Flora of North America. It is usually a single plant, up to 1m tall, stems are rigid and brittle, with a pappus (modified calyx), flowers are lavender to white, and achenes are 3.5-4m. [2]


Distributed from South Carolina, south to Florida and west to Louisiana.[3] More specifically in this range, it is found from eastern South Carolina to southern Florida as well as southeastern Louisiana.[1]



Generally, E. elatus can be found in pine sandhills or flatwoods.[1] It is found in well drained, open pinelands, longleaf pine-wiregrass sand ridges, slash pine flatwoods, longleaf pine savannas, pine-oak woodlands, pine-palmettos woodlands, oak hammock woodland, edges of river banks, sandhills, and edges of upland mixed forest with exposed limestone.[2] Additionally, E. elatus is frequent and abundant in the Clayhill Longleaf Woodlands community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[4] In the dry prairies of South Florida, it is limited to the "Dry Mesic" community type, which is the highest and driest within that landscape, but which occurs on poorly drained to somewhat poorly-drained Spodosols, mostly arenic or aeric haplaquods (Immokalee and Myakka series), with a perched wet-season water table.[5] Is also found in human disturbed areas that have been logged or clear cut (like flatwoods), along the roadsides, and in roadside depressions. A study exploring longleaf pine patch dynamics found E. elatus to be most strongly represented within longleaf pine gaps and under patches of longleaf that are up to 50 years of age.[6] E. elatus is associated with loam soil, sandy loam soil, limestone, and clay soil types. [2] It prefers dry soil to wetter soil.[7] It is found in dry flatwoods and sandhill communities. [7] E. elatus was found to decrease in occurrence in response to soil disturbance by agriculture in southwest Georgia. It has shown resistance to regrowth in reestablished native savanna habitats that were disturbed by agriculture.[8]

Associated species include Cocculus carolinus, Pinus palustris, Pinus elliottii, Aristida sp., Quercus laevis, Quercus incana, and other Quercus sp.[2]


E. elatus generally flowers from August until November.[1] This species has been observed to flower from July to November.[2][9] One study found flower duration to be longer in burned plots.[10]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by wind. [11]

Seed bank and germination

It was found viable in the seed bank of a pine flatwoods community in Florida in areas fire excluded for up to 29 years.[12]

Fire ecology

Populations of E. elatus have been known to persist through repeated annual burns,[13][14] and responded positively to late winter annual and biennial burns.[7] Is abundant in area where there was a winter burn, observed in annually burned savannas, Longleaf pinelands, and in pine-oak woodlands. [2] Flower duration has also been shown to increase with fire regiments. The most notable difference in the vigor of the flowering response occurred 1 month after the burns and in the fall flowering censuses.[10]


Elephantopus elatus have been observed at the Archbold Biological Station to host wasps such as Leucospis slossonae (family Leucospididae), thread-waisted wasps such as Isodontia exornata (family Sphecidae), sweat bees from the Halictidae family such as Augochlora pura, Augochlorella aurata, and Augochloropsis metallica, leafcutting bees from the Megachilidae family such as Anthidiellum perplexum, Megachile albitarsis, M. brevis pseudobrevis, and M. xylocopoides, wasps from the Vespidae family such as Pachodynerus erynnis and Stenodynerus fundatiformis.[15] These bees, Azcgochlora pura, Augochlorella aurata, Azegochloropsis metallica, Anthidiellum perplexurn, Megachile albitarsis, M. brevis pseudobrevis, and M. xylocopoides, were found on E. elatus.[16] This species is eaten by adult and juvenile gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus).[17]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: http://herbarium.bio.fsu.edu. Last accessed: June 2014. Collectors: R.K. Godfrey, R. D. Houk, R. L. Lazor, John Lazor, K. E. Blum, J. Wooten, James D. Ray, Jr., O. Lakela, A. F. Clewell, J. P. Gillespie, R. E. Perdue, Cecil R Slaughter, Loran C. Anderson, Brenda Herring, Don Herring, Gary R. Knight, Robert Kral, D. B. Ward, T. Myint, Richard S. Mitchell, E. L. Tyson, S. S. Ward, R. R. Smith, A. A. Will, Paul O. Schallert, L. Baltzell, Paul L. Redfearn, Jr., R. Komarek, MacClendons, G. Wilder, and Billie Bailey. States and Counties: Florida: Bay, Calhoun, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Marion, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St Johns, Taylor, Volusia, Wakulla, and Walton. Georgia: Grady and Thomas.
  3. USDA, NRCS. (2016). The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 6 May 2019). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  4. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  5. Orzell, S.L. and E.L. Bridges. 2006. Species composition and environmental characteristics of Florida dry prairies from the Kissimmee River region of south-central Florida. Pages 100-135 in Land of fire and water: The Florida dry prairie ecosystem. Proceedings of the Florida Dry Prairie Conference, R. F. Noss (ed).
  6. Mugnani et al. (2019). “Longleaf Pine Patch Dynamics Influence Ground-Layer Vegetation in Old-Growth Pine Savanna”.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Glitzenstein, J. S., D. R. Streng, et al. (2003). "Fire frequency effects on longleaf pine (Pinus palustris, P.Miller) vegetation in South Carolina and northeast Florida, USA." Natural Areas Journal 23: 22-37.
  8. Kirkman, L.K., K.L. Coffey, R.J. Mitchell, and E.B. Moser. Ground Cover Recovery Patterns and Life-History Traits: Implications for Restoration Obstacles and Opportunities in a Species-Rich Savanna. (2004). Journal of Ecology 92(3):409-421.
  9. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. www.gilnelson.com/PanFlora/ Accessed: 6 MAY 2019
  10. 10.0 10.1 Heuberger, K. A. and F. E. Putz (2003). "Fire in the suburbs: ecological impacts of prescribed fire in small remnants of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) sandhill." Restoration Ecology 11: 72-81.
  11. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  12. Maliakal, S.K., E.S. Menges and J.S. Denslow. 2000. Community composition and regeneration of Lake Wales Ridge wiregrass flatwoods in retlation to time-since-fire. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 127:125-138.
  13. Robertson, K.M. Unpublished data collected from Pebble Hill Fire Plots, Pebble Hill Plantation, Thomasville, Georgia.
  14. Glitzenstein, J. S., D. R. Streng, R. E. Masters, K. M. Robertson and S. M. Hermann 2012. Fire-frequency effects on vegetation in north Florida pinelands: Another look at the long-term Stoddard Fire Research Plots at Tall Timbers Research Station. Forest Ecology and Management 264: 197-209.
  15. Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.
  16. Deyrup, M. J. E., and Beth Norden (2002). "The diversity and floral hosts of bees at the Archbold Biological Station, Florida (Hymenoptera: Apoidea)." Insecta mundi 16(1-3).
  17. Mushinsky, H. R., Terri A. Stilson and Earl D. McCoy (2003). "Diet and Dietary Preference of the Juvenile Gopher Tortoise " Herpetologists' League 59(4): 475-486.