In May, a waste lot along Modoc County Road 95 (CA) near the Lookout railroad junction was covered with Eaton’s daisies (Erigeron eatonii). This member of the Sunflower Family is a native perennial growing in sandy and rocky flats, open grasslands or amid sagebrush, pines or juniper. Eaton’s daisies are found in all the contiguous United States west of the Rocky Mountains at mid to high elevations. There are 6 varieties of E. eatonii, mostly separated by geography.
Eaton’s daisies grow from a taproot up to a foot in height. The prostrate stems are prostrate to upright and purplish at the base. The leaves and stems of Eaton’s daisies are hairy.
Eaton’s daisy leaves are linear, pointed at the tip and have three veins. Most of the leaves are basal. Smaller leaves continue up the stem and are reduced in size upward on the stem.
Eaton’s daisy flower heads usually occur single at the stem tip. Each head consists of 20 to 50 pistillate white ray flowers surrounding many yellow disk flowers. The involucre bracts overlap. The fruit is an achene (single dry seed) topped by 15 to 25 pappus bristles.
Erigeron, the genus name, comes from the Greek – “eri” meaning early and “geron” meaning old man – and translates as “old man in the spring”. The genus refers to the fluffy white seed heads on this early fruiting and flowering wildflower. The species name honors Daniel Cady Eaton (1834 – 1895), an American botanist and author. Daniel Eaton’s grandfather was Amos Eaton (1776 – 1842), another American botanist.
Another common name for E. eatonii is Eaton’s fleabane.