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Nodding Bur-Marigold

Common Name: Nodding Bur-Marigold.

Scientific Name: Bidens Cernua.

What to look for?  A mass of yellow flowers sitting atop tall stems low on the banks of ponds. The Nodding Bur-Marigold is an annual plant with a tall, central stem. It has long, oblong green leaves. The upper stems terminate in lovely, yellow flowerheads. These flowerheads tend to nod downward with age – hence, their name. The outer circumference of each flowerhead consists of about eight (8) oval yellow ray flowers (petals) with a point or notch at the tip. In the center are some fifty or more disc florets with tubular, dull orange-yellow corollas. These flowers add a brilliance to the transition from summer to fall. The leaves tend to turn purple during the cool weather of autumn. The root system is shallow and branches frequently. This plant often forms colonies and spreads by reseeding itself. Seeds are hard and dark brown.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The beautiful colonies of Nodding Bur-Marigold were sighted along the southern banks of the pond next to Stonegate West Park’s pond.

How big are they? Nodding Bur-Marigold grows to approximately three (3) feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately five (5) inches long and one (1) inch across. Each flowerhead is approximately one (1) inch across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The Nodding Bur-Marigold is native to Illinois and more common in central and northern Illinois than in southern Illinois. It is found across most of the continental U.S. with the exception of the Gulf coast states. Nodding Bur Marigold is commonly found on the banks of ponds and lakes in late summer and early fall. Habitats include swamps, bogs, seeps, marshes, edges of rivers and ponds, soggy meadows in floodplain areas, and ditches along roads and railroads. Nodding Bur Marigold grows from a shallow root system in wet but not flooded environments. Being an annual if sufficient seed sets, a sustaining colony is formed, unless subsequent flooding occurs.

When do they bloom? Late bloomer. The blooming period of the Nodding Bur-Marigold occurs from late summer to early fall and lasts about two (2) months for a colony of plants.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flowers of the Nodding Bur-Marigold attract an abundance of bees, wasps, butterflies, skippers, moths, and various kinds of flies. Bees - including honeybees and bumblebees - visiting these flowers suck nectar and collect pollen. The caterpillars of the butterfly, Dainty Sulfur, and several moths feed on the foliage.

Interesting Facts About Nodding Bur-Marigold:

  • The species name, cernua is Latin for “nodding”.

  • The Nodding Bur-Marigold may appear on the edge of a wetland where in the previous years there were no plants; seeds can move around via water easily and remain dormant until the moisture level is right for germination.

  • Thoreau wrote:  "If in October you have occasion to pass through or along some half-dried pool, these seeds will often adhere to your clothes in surprising numbers. It is as if you had unconsciously made your way through the ranks of some countless but invisible lilliputian army, which in their anger had discharged all their arrows and darts at you, though none of them reached higher than your legs."

For more information on the Nodding Bur-Marigold and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Friends of the Wildflower Garden and the University of Texas Wildflower Center.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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