Zizia aptera - (Gray) Fern.
Heartleaf Alexanders
Other English Common Names: Meadwo Parsnip
Other Common Names: meadow zizia
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Zizia aptera (Gray) Fern. (TSN 29905)
French Common Names: zizia des marais
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.141877
Element Code: PDAPI2F010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Carrot Family
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Apiales Apiaceae Zizia
Check this box to expand all report sections:
Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Zizia aptera
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 16May2016
Global Status Last Changed: 16Apr1984
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N5
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5 (13Mar2012)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNR), Arkansas (S1S3), Colorado (SNR), Connecticut (S1), Delaware (S1), District of Columbia (SNR), Florida (SNR), Georgia (S4), Idaho (SNR), Illinois (SNR), Indiana (S2), Iowa (S3), Kentucky (S5), Maryland (SNR), Michigan (S1S2), Minnesota (SNR), Mississippi (SNR), Missouri (SNR), Montana (S4), Nevada (SNR), New Jersey (S4), New York (S4), North Carolina (S5), North Dakota (SNR), Ohio (SNR), Oklahoma (SNR), Oregon (SNR), Pennsylvania (S5), Rhode Island (SH), South Carolina (SNR), South Dakota (SNR), Tennessee (SNR), Utah (SNR), Virginia (S5), Washington (SNR), West Virginia (S5), Wisconsin (SNR), Wyoming (S3)
Canada Alberta (S5), British Columbia (S4), Manitoba (S5), Ontario (S1), Saskatchewan (S5)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent Comments: Zizia aptera ranges from Connecticut to Georgia, to Missouri and Michigan and the Dakotas the western states and Canadian provinces. There is one historical record from Rhode Island (Enser 1989). The sole record from Kansas is a misidentified specimen of Z. aurea (Freeman 1989).

Overall Threat Impact Comments: Threats include: 1) lack of fire to reduce canopy and competition by other plants, and to change soil nutrients and moisture, 2) erosion on steep sites, 3) maintenance operations along right-of-ways, and 4) loss of habitat due to development. Grazing may also be a threat (Sather 1989).

Short-term Trend: Increase of >10%

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: Zizia aptera ranges from Connecticut to Georgia, to Missouri and Michigan and the Dakotas the western states and Canadian provinces. There is one historical record from Rhode Island (Enser 1989). The sole record from Kansas is a misidentified specimen of Z. aurea (Freeman 1989).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, ON, SK

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AR Boone (05009), Izard (05065)*, Lawrence (05075), Randolph (05121), Sharp (05135)
CT New Haven (09009), New London (09011)
DE New Castle (10003)
IN Crawford (18025), Franklin (18047)*, Harrison (18061), Monroe (18105), Perry (18123)
MI Gogebic (26053), Kent (26081), Mackinac (26097), Newaygo (26123)
OR Clackamas (41005)*, Columbia (41009)*, Multnomah (41051)*, Wallowa (41063)*, Washington (41067)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
01 Thames (01100003)+, Quinnipiac (01100004)+
02 Brandywine-Christina (02040205)+
04 Black-Presque Isle (04020101)+, Lower Grand (04050006)+, Thornapple (04050007)+, Muskegon (04060102)+, Carp-Pine (04070002)+
05 Whitewater (05080003)+*, Lower East Fork White (05120208)+, Silver-Little Kentucky (05140101)+, Blue-Sinking (05140104)+
11 Bull Shoals Lake (11010003)+, Middle White (11010004)+*, Spring (11010010)+, Eleven Point (11010011)+, Strawberry (11010012)+
17 Wallowa (17060105)+*, Lower Grande Ronde (17060106)+*, Lower Columbia-Clatskanie (17080003)+*, Middle Willamette (17090007)+*, Tualatin (17090010)+, Lower Willamette (17090012)+*
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
Basic Description: Zizia aptera is a stout, erect, glabrous or somewhat pubescent, high perennial.
Technical Description: Zizia aptera is a 2-9 dm high perennial of the Umbelliferae. Roots fibrous, somewhat fleshy. Basal leaves long-petioled, simple, broadly ovate, rarely lobed or trifoliate, deeply cordate at base, crenate, 2.5-10 cm. long and 1.5-5 cm. wide. Stem leaves shorter petioled, ternate or rarely quinate, segments ovate, crenate or lobed. The western var. occidentalis has more coarsely and irregularly toothed stem leaves, which may also be thinner than those of var. aptera.

Leaves have unpleasant odor when crushed, and are bitter tasting due to a water soluble compound, apterin. Blooms May to June. Flowers 3.5-4.5. mm long, yellow. Umbel loose, long-stalked, flat, compound. Rays of umbel 7-16, ascending, 1-3 cm. long; pedicels 1-3 mm. long. Fruits July to September. Fruit 2-4 mm long, 2 mm board, with filiform ribs; oil-tubes solitary in the intervals, 2 on the commissure; seed-face slightly concave. N = 11. This species is confused with Thaspium trifoliatum (because of its ternate stem leaves and heart-shaped basal leaves) but in Z. aptera the central flower of each umbellet is fertile and sessile, and the fruits are ribbed, not winged. Zizia aurea is also similar but lacks the heart-shaped basal leaves.

Reproduction Comments: Zizia aptera can occur in large patches (hundreds of plants). Plants may persist in a sterile condition for a number of years. Studies of the pollination biology of Zizia aurea and the related genus Thaspium (Lindsey 1984, Lindsey and Bell 1985) suggest that Z. aptera shares the same characteristics: the umbels are andromonoecious (have bisexual as well as staminate flowers), the bisexual flowers tend towards protandry, and some mechanical selfing probably occurs. Flies and solitary bees are among the most numerous visitors to the flowers. Andrena ziziae (Hymenoptera: Andrenidae) has an oligolectic relationship with Zizia and Thaspium (Ribble 1968, Lindsey and Bell 1985). However, for a list of other plants visited see Krombien et al. (1979). Its range is from northeastern New Mexico north to Canada and east to New Hampshire and Georgia (Ribble 1968). It has been collected most frequently from the second week in May until the end of June (Ribble 1968). Another solitary bee, Andrena miranda, is also found on Z. aptera, but it visits many other plants as well (Krombien et al. 1979). Its range is "from central Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, northern Illinois and Minnesota in the east and south to northern New Mexico, Arizona and northern California in the west" (La Berge 1973). It has been collected most frequently in June and July (La Berge 1973). The leaves and seeds of Z. aptera produce a dihydrofuranocoumarin glycoside. It was isolated from the leaves and given the name apterin (Steck and Wetter 1974). Another study found no angular or linear furanocoumarins (Berenbaum 1981). Berenbaum (1981) reported the following herbivores on Z. aptera: Eulia fratria, Agonopterix clemensella (an umbellifeous specialist), Atchips purpuranus (all three Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), and Philaenus spumarius (Homoptera: Cercopidae). Larvae of Archips purpuranus are found on a number of plants (MacKay 1962.) Many tortricids fold or roll leaves, attaching the edges together, and may pupate inside. The meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius, can cause serious damage in the eastern United States by stunting crops, particularly clover (Borror et al. 1976). Eggs laid in late summer in plant stems or on the sheaths of grasses hatch the next spring.
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest/Woodland, Grassland/herbaceous, Woodland - Conifer
Habitat Comments: Dry or mesic prairies, glades, rich or rocky woods, in mountains and piedmont, along bluff escarpments and thickets, calcareous river flats or rocky summit communities, near or on the banks of watercourses, in open or thin canopy which can be due to nature or un-natural disturbance (e.g., powerline right-of-ways, along railroad tracks, roadsides). It may have soil preferences (Lindsey, 1990). The western var. occidentalis more closely restricted to moist habitats than the typical eastern var. aptera.

In Connecticut, it is found on the edge of second growth woods and on low bluffs along rivers (Murray 1989).

In Illinois, it is found in wet prairies in the north, and in limestone glades in the south (Karnes 1989).

In Indiana, all of the known populations occur on dry, thinly forested limestone slopes and glades (Homoya 1990).

In Iowa, it occurs especially in dry to mesic prairies with a circumneutral soil (Leoschke 1990).

In Michigan, it occurs on hillside prairies (steep and gravelly) in the southwestern Lower Peninsula, with Bessya bullii, Bouteloua curtipendula, Quercus prinus, Heuchera sp., Andropogon sp. and other prairie species (Penskar 1989). The northern, Mackinac County Population covers several acres of man-made mesic clearings on calcareous glacial till (Penskar 1989). Other species there include Achillea millefolium, Carex crawei, C. capillaris, C. castanea, Campanula rotundifolia, Castilleja coccinea, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, Cypripedium calceolus, Juncus balticus, Lilium philadelphicum, Potentilla fruticosa, Prunella vulgaris, and Rudbeckia hirta (Penskar 1989).

In Minnesota, it is most common in "wet mesic to mesic prairie but also in dry mesic and dry prairies and dry woods (but not on sand prairies). It occurs in oak and pine woods..." (Sather 1989).

In Missouri, it is "most often at the edge of carbonate glades and throughout open woodlands bordering the glades" (Nigh 1989).

In Montana, it is "relatively widespread in moist habitats...in moist, brushy thickets, very near or on the banks of watercourses" (Shelly 1989).

In New Jersey, it occurs in the northern Ridge and Valley, Highlands, and Piedmont areas, and infrequently on the Inner Coastal Plain. Snyder has seen it "most abundant in dampish soil or seepage areas on trap rock or database (sic) and in similar conditions within our limestone region" (1989).

In Ohio, the typical habitat is "grassy or barren opening over thin, calcareous soil. Typical associates include: Andropogon gerardii, A. scoparious, Bouteloua curtipendula, Silphium terebinthianaceum and Solidago rigida. In Belmont County in eastern Ohio it grows on talus below an exposure of low-grade limestone. The Franklin County sire is on glacial till exposed on an eroded bluff above a stream" (Cusick 1990).

In Pennsylvania, one site on a limestone bluff is a calcareous rocky summit community containing two rare species, Chrysogonum virginianum and Dodecatheon meadia (Edinger 1989). Other species include Quercus alba, Q. rubra, Q. velutina, Carya laciniosa, Juniperus virginiana, Ostrya virginiana, Staphylea trifolia, Saxafraga virginiensis, Hypoxis hirsuta, Potentilla simplex, and Lonicera japonica (Rhoads and Mellon 1984).

In South Carolina, it is most often found in the mountains and piedmont, or bluffs on the coastal plain. In wet piedmont sites dominated by soils of the Iredell series, it can be found with Zizia aurea, Thalictrum revolutum, Camassia scilloides, Geranium maculatum, Podophyllum peltatum, and Saxifraga virginiensis (Nelson 1989).

In South Dakota, it has been found in habitats characterized by Pinus ponderosa or Populus tremuloides/Corylus cornuta (Hoffman and Alexander 1987). A study of soils in Deuel County found Z. aptera in poorly drained Flom soil (Hubbard et al. 1987).

In Virginia, it is most often found where the soils are circumneutral to basic, with associates Polygala senega, and Scutellaria leonardii (Ludwig 1989).

Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary
Stewardship Overview: In the past, throughout its range, its habitat was likely maintained by fire. Today, management by burning, mowing, or removal of canopy may help maintain a population at protected sites, especially on the periphery of its range. Research could determine more of this plant's life history and further elaborate on the need for management.
Restoration Potential: Unknown at present.
Preserve Selection & Design Considerations: Sites with a reduced canopy seem necessary, whether produced naturally or by some management practice.
Management Requirements: Maintain open canopy. Burning?

Depending on the site, a spring burn or mechanical removal of canopy may be beneficial. Mowing might be considered as a replacement for burning (Snyder 1989).

Monitoring Requirements: Zizia aptera ranges from Connecticut to Georgia, to Missouri and Michigan and the Dakotas, the western states and Canadian provinces. There is one historical record from Rhode Island (Enser 1989). The sole record from Kansas is a misidentified specimen of Z. aurea (Freeman 1989). It is of concern (S1) in Connecticut, Michgan and Deleware, rare in the Yukon, and ranked S2 in Indiana. These areas are on the periphery of its range. Elsewhere it is not of concern, and has global rank G5. No monitoring is anticipated in states where it is abundant.

Management Programs: At present there are no specific management programs for Z. aptera. In some states, it undergoes spring burns as part of general prairie management. It responds well to spring burning of prairies in Minnesota (Sather 1989) and Ohio (Cusick 1990) and to burning in Indiana (Homoya 1990).
Monitoring Programs: The Delaware Natural Heritage Inventory began tracking one population of 50 plants in 1989 (contact Leslie Trew, Coordinator, DNHI, 89 Kings Highway, P.O. Box 1401, Dover, DE 19903; (302)736-5285). The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is preserving part of a 2- acre site of Zizia in St. Ignace, a remnant of prairie flora in the Upper Peninsula (contact Mile Penskar, Staff Botanist, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, P.O. Box 30028, Lansing, MI 48909; (517)373-1552). The occurence of Z. aptera at this site is detailed in a report, "Floristic surveys of the proposed St. Ignace Wastewater Treatment Plant site location, pump station sites, and routes for force mains and sewers," by H.E. Ballard, Jr. (Preserve Design Ecologist, Michigan Field Office, The Nature Conservancy).
Management Research Programs: The propagator at Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve started Z. aptera seeds in flats, moved plants to raised beds and then onto nature trails in the summer of 1989 (Edinger 1989). The success of these plants will be noted. (Contact Janet Urban, Director, BHWP, Box 103, Washington Crossing, PA 18977; (215) 862-2924). Seeds were advertised in the 1987 edition of the Andersen Horticultural Library's Source List of Plants and Seeds (contact Prairie Moon Nursery, Rt 3. Box 163, Winona, MN 55987; (507) 452-5231). The American Rock Garden Society's 1989 Seed Exchange also has seeds (contact Carole Wilder, Director, 221 W. 9th Street., Hastings, MN 55033).
Management Research Needs: Field work could also determine: 1) how long-lived a perennial it is, 2) what success wild populations have in seed production, seed germination and seedling establishment, 3) when leaves first appear in the spring, and 4) the extent to which spring burns, mowing, or canopy opening increase leaf number, leaf size or flowering in a population.
Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 29Jan1990
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: JOYCE C. HEMINGSON, CTFO
Management Information Edition Date: 29Jan1990
Management Information Edition Author: JOYCE C. HEMINGSON, CTFO
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 29Jan1990
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): JOYCE C. HEMINGSON, CTFO

Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

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