The upright character of Wild Quinine and the white accent it adds to the garden are clear in this photo.
Wild Quinine (Parthenium integrifolium)
by Trish Beckjord, RLA
I watched Wild Quinine, also called American Feverfew, for a while before I added it to my garden. Its leaves are large, particularly at the base and it grows to 2 ½ to 3 ½ ’ tall. But its leaf texture and its stately upright character – along with its brilliant white flowers – are what ultimately attracted me. Although the Missouri Botanical Garden describes it as only “minimally ornamental” I think I would have to disagree. I find Wild Quinine to be a good selection for adding textural contrast and accent to the garden.
The flowers of this native perennial bloom in several flat-headed clusters (inflorescence) from late spring to mid-summer with no floral scent. To some it may resemble the non-native Queen Anne’s Lace but the flowers and overall plant are quite different when you look at them more closely.
Each individual flower of Wild Quinine is only about 1/3” across and consists mostly of disk florets with few stunted ray florets. Dr. John Hilty of Illinois Wildflowers describes each flower from a distance as resembling a “small white pearl.” Seeds do not develop white hairs and are not wind dispersed. A rhizomatous root system promotes the spread of this plant but not aggressively so.
Wild Quinine prefers full sun and a loam garden soil with average moisture but is tolerant of some sand and rock. It will tolerate a small amount of shade. It is a member of the aster family that in the wild is found in most Illinois counties but it is rare or absent in western and SE Illinois. In the wild its typical habitat is mesic black soil prairies, sand prairies and savannas.
Plant this species in the spring after the risk of frost and before its active growth in the late spring and early summer.
Wild quinine attracts a variety of insect pollinators including various types of wasps and flies that typically seek the flower’s nectar. Beetles attracted to Wild Quinine usually eat pollen. The leaves are not typically browsed due to their sandpapery texture and bitter taste. Wild Quinine is deer resistant.