Erechtites hieracifolia

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Erechtites hieracifolia
Erec hier-3.jpg
Photo by John R. Gwaltney, Southeastern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae ⁄ Compositae
Genus: Erechtites
Species: E. hieracifolia
Binomial name
Erechtites hieracifolia
(L.) Raf. ex DC.
Erec hier dist.jpg
Natural range of Erechtites hieracifolia from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: American burnweed; fireweed

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: Erechtites hieracifolia var. hieracifolia; E. hieraciifolia var. hieraciifolia; E. hieraciifolius var. hieraciifolius[1]

Varieties: E. hieracifolia var. hieracifolia; E. hieracifolia var. intermedia Fernald; E. hieracifolia var. praealta (Rafinesque) Fernald[1]


"Robust annual with erect, glabrous or slightly pubescent, solid stems, 0.4-3 m or more tall. Leaves alternate, elliptic to lanceolate, 5-20 cm long, 0.5-6.5 cm wide, acute to acuminate, irregularly serrate to dentate, unlobed or lobed, base cuneate to attenuate or upper stem leaves auriculate. Heads in panicles. Involucres cylindric, 10-20 mm long, 4-8 mm broad; bracts in 1 series or with a few small bracts at base. Disc 3-10 mm broad. Flowers discoid, lobes cream to pinkish, erect, 0.3-0.5 mm long. Nutlets brown, tapered from base to apex, 1.9-2.7 mm long, 0.4-0.7 mm broad, 10-ribbed, pubescent; pappus white, capillary, 10-14 mm long." [2]


This species can be found from Canada southward, from Newfoundland west to Saskatchewan provinces south to southern Florida and eastern Texas. It is also native south of the United States including the West Indies and Tropical America.[1] It has also been introduced to Hawaii.[3]

Erechtites hieracifolia var. megalocarpa is endemic to an area from southeastern Massachusetts to southern New Jersey and adjacent Delmarva Peninsual.[4]



Can be found in almost all habitats in disturbed soil besides extremely xeric soils. It is present in most areas of modern beat-up landscapes (even if just seedlings) and appears at the smallest disturbance. With this, it is most prevalent in areas that are heavily disturbed or scarified by timber-harvest, bulldozing, and severe fire disturbance.[1] Habitats that E. hieracifolia has been observed in include edge of drying mudhole, margin of pine flatwoods, hydric hammock, areas disturbed by feral hogs, spoil flats, swamps, sandhills, sandy fields and various clearings, boggy margins, a riparian mixed hardwood community, other woodlands, and a run off area. Soils observed include drying loamy sand, moist sand and other sandy soils, and sandy peat.[5] It has been observed to be an early-successional species, becoming abundant early after disturbance but decreasing in abundance as the years since a disturbance increase.[6] Though it can be found in shady areas, E. hieracifolia requires high light for establishment.[7] E. hieracifolia has shown regrowth in reestablished coastal plain habitat that was disturbed by agricultural practices in South Carolina, making it an indicator species for post-agricultural woodland.[8] It was also found to increase in frequency and biomass in response to soil disturbance by clearcutting and chopping in North Florida flatwoods forests. It has shown regrowth in reestablished native flatwood habitat that was disturbed by these practices.[9]

Associated species include Pluchea sp., Kostelezkya sp., Liatris sp., Panicum sp., Leptoloma cognatum, Ambrosia sp., Conyza canadensis, Mikania scandens, Lygodium japonicum, and other grasses.[5]

Erechtites hieracifolia is an indicator species for the Calcareous Savannas community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[10]


Generally, this species flowers from late July until November.[1] E. hieracifolia has been obseved flowering in all months besides February and May, and has been observed fruiting in March, April, and June through October.[11][5]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by wind. [12]

Seed bank and germination

E. hieracifolia was found in the seed banks of bays dominated by herbaceous and shrub plants in western South Carolina.[13] Another study found this species to germinate from the seed bank of a restoration site in southwest Georgia even when the species was not part of the herbaceous vegetation.[14] Seeds were also one of the highest importance values in a Virginia pocosin for early succession.[15] As well, this species has a positive germination response to fire disturbance.[16] Almost all seeds in a study by Mou germinated pre-scarification, and almost all germinated in an early-successional time period.[17]

An early 2000s study found that while E. hieracifolia is found in the seed beds of old agricultural field soils, it is absent from the seed banks in flatwoods soils.[18]

Fire ecology

It has been observed in areas that are frequently burned and annually burned.[5] One study in New Hampshire found this species to germinate in response to fire.[16] Cool burns as well as litter removal have been shown to improve germination success, which could mean that removing litter is a process that favors colonization.[19] E. hieracifolia has been seen to immediately increase in response to fire since it is opportunistic, but decrease in abundance in the years following a fire disturbance to its original abundance before fire was introduced.[20][21] It can also tolerate fire whether or not the herbicide imazapyr is applied to the plant.[22] A study on fire seasonality only found E. hieracifolia to benefit from winter burns.[23] As well, overall biomass of this species was found to hit its peak eight months after a fire disturbance.[24]


Erechtites hieracifolia has been observed at the Archbold Biological Station as being a host to sweat bees such as Halictus poeyi (family Halictidae), wasps such as Leucospis affinis (family Leucospidae), leafcutting bees such as Dianthidium floridiense (family Megachilidae), and wasps from the Vespidae family such as Leptochilus republicanus, Parancistrocerus bicornis, P. salcularis rufulus, and Polistes dorsalis hunteri.[25] Other species in the Hymenoptera order observed to pollinate E. hieracifolia include Anthidiellum perplexum and Megachile albitarsis.[26] Additionally, E. hieracifolia has been observed to host bees such as Bombus impatiens (family Apidae), ladybugs from the Coccinellidae family such as Coccinella septempunctata, Cycloneda sanguinea, Diomus terminatus and Exochomus childreni, as well as bugs such as Rhynchomitra microrhina (family Dictyopharidae), aphids such as Aphis sp. (family Aphididae), and wasps from the family Vespidae such as Vespula germanica and Entylia carinata.[27]

Herbivory and toxicology

E. hieracifoliaconsists of approximately 2-5% of the diet for various terrestrial birds.[28]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

For management, this species is resistant to the herbicide imazapyr.[22] It is also quite resistant to the herbicide imazapyr-glyphosate.[29]

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. Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 1037. Print.
  3. USDA, NRCS. (2016). The PLANTS Database (, 8 May 2019). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  4. Sorrie, B. A. and A. S. Weakley 2001. Coastal Plain valcular plant endemics: Phytogeographic patterns. Castanea 66: 50-82.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: May 2019. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Kurt E. Blum, D. E. Breedlove, Jane Brockmann, K. Craddock Burks, A. F. Clewell, J. Dwyer, J. Ferborgh, R. K. Godfrey, Ann F. Johnson, Brian R. Keener, R. Komarek, Robert J. Lemaire, Horace Loftin, Marc Minno, - Mitchell, R. S. Mitchell, R. A. Norris, Gwynn W. Ramsey, Paul L. Redfearn, Jr., Grady W. Reinert, Annie Schmidt, Cecil R. Slaughter, H. Larry Stripling, - Thompson, Alush Shilom Ton, and Edwin L. Tyson. States and Counties: Florida: Bay, Calhoun, Dade, Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Hernando, Hillsborough, Indian River, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Polk, Sarasota, St Johns, Taylor, Volusia, Wakulla, and Washington. Georgia: Grady and Thomas. Alabama: Baldwin.
  6. Tyndall, R. W. (2005). "Twelve years of herbaceous vegetation change in oak savanna habitat on a Maryland serpentine barren after Virginia Pine removal." Castanea 70(4): 287-297.
  7. Spiegel, K. S. and L. M. Leege (2013). "Impacts of laurel wilt disease on redbay (Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng.) population structure and forest communities in the coastal plain of Georgia, USA." Biological Invasions 15(11): 2467-2487.
  8. Brudvig, L.A., E Grman, C.W. Habeck, and J.A. Ledvina. (2013). Strong legacy of agricultural land use on soils and understory plant communities in longleaf pine woodlands. Forest Ecology and Management 310: 944-955.
  9. Moore, W.H., B.F. Swindel, and W.S. Terry. (1982). Vegetative Response to Clearcutting and Chopping in a North Florida Flatwoods Forest. Journal of Range Management 35(2):214-218.
  10. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  11. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 8 DEC 2016
  12. 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.
  13. Navarra, J. J. and P. F. Quintana-Ascencio 2012. Spatial pattern and composition of the Florida scrub seed bank and vegetation along an anthropegenic disturbance gradient. Applied Vegetation Science 15:349-358.
  14. Andreu, M. G., et al. (2009). "Can managers bank on seed banks when restoring Pinus taeda L. plantations in Southwest Georgia?" Restoration Ecology 17: 586-596.
  15. Bolin, J. F. (2007). "Seed bank response to wet heat and the vegetation structure of a Virginia pocosin." Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 134: 80-88.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Chapman, R. R. and G. E. Crow (1981). "Application of Raunkiaer's life form system to plant species survival after fire." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 108(4): 472-478.
  17. Mou, P., et al. (2005). "Regeneration strategies, disturbance and plant interactions as organizers of vegetation spatial patterns in a pine forest." Landscape Ecology 20: 971-987.
  18. Jenkins, Amy Miller. Seed banking and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae in pasture restoration in central Florida. University of Florida. 2003.
  19. Glasgow, L. S. and G. R. Matlack (2007). "Prescribed burning and understory composition in a temperate deciduous forest, Ohio, USA." Forest Ecology and Management 238: 54-64.
  20. Hartman, G. W. and B. Heumann (2003). Prescribed fire effects in the Ozarks of Missouri: the Chilton Creek Project 1996-2001. Second International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress and Fifth Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology, Orlando, FL, American Meteorological Society.
  21. Hutchinson, T. F., et al. (2005). "Prescribed fire effects on the herbaceous layer of mixed-oak forests." Can. J. For. Res 35: 877-890.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Iglay, R. B., et al. (2010). "Effect of plant community composition on plant response to fire and herbicide treatments." Forest Ecology and Management 260: 543-548.
  23. Kush, J. S., et al. (2000). Understory plant community response to season of burn in natural longleaf pine forests. Proceedings 21st Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference. Fire and forest ecology: innovative silviculture & vegetation management, Tallahassee, FL, Tall Timbers Research, Inc.
  24. McKinley, C. E. and F. P. Day (1979). "Herbaceous production in cut-burned, uncut-burned and control areas of Chamaecyparis thyoides (L.) BSP (Cupressaceae) stand in the Great Dismal Swamp." Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 106: 20-28.
  25. Deyrup, M.A. and N.D. 2015. Database of observations of Hymenoptera visitations to flowers of plants on Archbold Biological Station, Florida, USA.
  26. 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).
  27. [1]
  28. Miller, J.H., and K.V. Miller. 1999. Forest plants of the southeast and their wildlife uses. Southern Weed Science Society.
  29. Jones, J. D. J. and M. J. Chamberlain (2004). "Efficacy of herbicides and fire to improve vegetative conditions for northern bobwhites in mature pine forests." Wildlife Society Bulletin 32: 1077-1084.