Zizia aurea

A native zizia with a flat cluster of small, bright yellow flowers

Zizia aurea golden alexanders

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

This colorful, lace-like, native perennial wildflower is a member of the parsley or carrot family. The flat cluster of small yellow flowers is in the form of a flat or slightly rounded umbel about 2-3 inches wide. The umbel is divided into about 12 smaller clusters, each with about 21 individual flowers. Each flower is only 1/8 inch wide and has five incurved petals, five sepals and 5 stamens.

The flowers attract a variety of insects. They can serve as pollinators but the plant can also self-fertilize. The flowers have no scent. Each flower eventually produces an oblong green capsule. The capsules change color as the season progresses. The leaves have a variable shape but are doubly compound. Each is divided into three parts and these are divided into 3-7 narrow or ovate toothed leaflets. The lower leaves have longer petioles than the upper leaves. The stems are often red tinged and there are occasional side branches. In the fall both the leaves and the fruit turn purple.

The plant grows to a height of 1-3 feet and blooms from April to June. It can be found in meadows, moist woods, roadsides, swamps, thickets and on shorelines. The plant prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. 

This species can be a tricky one to identify as several other plants have a similar appearance and are also called golden alexanders. These include the yellow meadow parsnip (Thaspium trifoliatum) that has heart-shaped basal leaves, wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) that blooms later and has more leaflets, Zizia aptera that also has heart-shaped basal leaves and central flowers in each small cluster that have no stalk, and yellow pimpernel (Taenidia integerrima) that has leaves with no teeth. For this reason, some use the common name golden zizia, rather than golden alexanders for Zizia aurea.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Grows along stream banks & in moist meadows.

Present throughout the state.

Range: Widespread throughout eastern and central North America.

Wetland codes

Flowers May through June.

S-rank:  S5 (Secure)
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Zizia aurea golden alexanders

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA
Zizia aurea gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names
golden alexanders golden zizia