Common fleabane is one of those plants most folks pass by without giving a second glance. Like the dandelion, this earliest of the season's fleabanes is ubiquitous, appearing along country roads and back alleys, in old fields, residential yards, or beside a city sidewalk.
The Common Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus, is also known as Philadelphia Fleabane. Fleabanes are members of the Aster (Asteraceae) family. They begin blooming in late-April. The daisy-like flowers are large for a fleabane—up to an inch-and-a-half across—with 100-150 rays which can be white, pink, violet, or a sort of slate-blue, with center disks in various shades of yellow or orange, often sporting a greenish tinge. The fleabane's blossoms close up at night.
To my mind Common Fleabanes are the prettiest of the fleabane clan. In the archaic use of the word, "bane" meant poison…though in this case any poisoning danger applied only if you were a flea. In the old days folks dried and burned fleabane, letting the smoke fill their homes. It was thought the fumes from the smoldering leaves and stems would act as a fumigant and repellant—killing, or at least driving out any fleas in the dwelling, and preventing their return for some time afterwards. Unfortunately, modern scientific tests show absolutely no effects on contemporary fleas.
Which may make the plant a bit less useful, but no less delightful—and certainly worthy of anyone's notice.