Golden Alexanders (the “s” is part of its common name, not a misspelling) are in the same carrot family (Apiaceae) with Queen Anne’s Lace and Yarrow. It has the characteristic umbel type flower with tiny golden yellow flowers arrayed in roughly flat-topped clusters at the tops of stems. Provides a welcome splash of color in late spring and early summer, when the garden often lacks color. Foliage is thick and fairly attractive and endures after the flower finishes blooming. Seed heads will arch above the relatively low foliage, both of which turn purple in the fall.
A New Garden Favorite
Zizia aurea is growing in popularity among native plant gardeners because it is a reliable bloomer during the spring when few other ground level plants are blooming. Sturdy, low-maintenance, and adaptable to a wide variety of conditions (it prefers moist light shade), Golden Alexanders will self-sow to spread to fill in bare gaps, and can intermix among other perennials and grasses, adding a nice low green and yellow texture to the garden, not unlike the (non-native and invasive) Bishop’s Weed to which it is related, though less aggressive. So, although it often grows in a nice clump, it can be encouraged as a tall groundcover.
Early Specialist Pollen & Nectar
Scores of native bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and other insects feed on the nectar of Zizia aurea, which is an obligate nectar source for the specialist native mining bee, Golden Alexanders Miner Bee (Andrena ziziae). This means this bee feeds exclusively on this nectar and no other. It is also a host plan for the Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) and several other moth species. (Wikipedia, 2023). This means the caterpillars will eat the leaves of your plants–have patience and remember that this is one of the reasons to plant natives: to support the lifewebs!
Golden Alexanders is native to the United States and Canada. It grows from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan, south to Florida and Texas, and west to Montana. (Wikipedia, 2023).
Other Floyd County native Zizia: Z. aptera, Z. trifoliata.
Height: 2-3 ft, Spacing guide: 1'-2'. Bloom Color: Yellow. Bloom Time: Late Spring (May-Jun). Light: Full sun to part shade. Moisture: Medium to moist (mesic to subhydric) conditions. Soils: Moist, sandy or sandy-clay soils.
USDA Zones: 4-9. National Wetland Status Indicator:FAC. C-Value:7. Successional Role: Subclimax, stable.
Virginia Habitat: "Floodplain forests, alluvial swamps, seepage swamps, fens and seeps, rocky flood-scoured shores, riverside prairies, and moist or wet clearings; sometimes ranging into drier habitats, especially on base-rich soils. Frequent in the mountains; infrequent in the Piedmont; rare in the Coastal Plain." (The Flora, 2023). Virginia Natural Communities: None specified
*Of Special Value to Native Bees, Supports Conservation Biological Control
Wildlife Supported: Many bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and other insects feed on nectar, Golden Alexanders Miner Bee (Andrena ziziae) feeds only on the nectar of this plant; host plant for Eastern Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), Common Eupithecia (Eupithecia miserulata), and the Agonopterix clemensella moth.
Seed, division. Germinates best in cool soil in the fall. Seed Germination: C60 - 60 days cold moist stratification required