by Jane Scully
The bright and often bushy golden Alexander blooms well into June, brightening meadows, stream shorelines and open dry woods. It has flat-topped groups of tiny yellow flowers with 6 to 20 rays in each group which are each 1 to 2 inches wide. The plant has a red-tinged stem that branches to produce many different groups of flowers. Altogether golden alexanders stand between 1 and 3 feet high.
The "alexander" has come down from Latin and Old English after Alexander the Great to denote the flower's brilliant color suggesting royalty. "Aurea" is Latin for gold. I have some personal memory of reading about alexander wheels, a kind of fire works, popular in the 19th century. Certainly that would be appropriate as well.
This plant is a member of the parsley family. Its leaves distinguish it from other flowers that are also called golden alexander: the leaves are divided 2-to-3 times, with 3 to 13 long, pointed leaflets with sharp teeth! Each of the approximately 35 leaflets is about 1 to 2 inches long. Indeed a nice, green bushy background with golden flowers.
American Indians drank the root tea for fevers and used it as a sleep inducer. But as medicinal botanist James Duke says, "Amateurs fooling around with plants in the parsley family are playing herbal roulette."
Photos by the author