Hasteola suaveolens (L.) Pojark.
Sweet-smelling Indian Plantain
Cacalia suaveolens, Senecio suaveolens
Basis for Listing
Hasteola suaveolens (sweet-smelling Indian plantain) reaches the northwestern limit of its range in southeastern Minnesota (The Blufflands, Rochester Plateau, and Oak Savanna subsections) and was probably uncommon here even before human settlement. Since the time of settlement, Minnesota populations have been reduced to critically low numbers by extensive wetland drainage, stream channelization, and conversion of riparian forests to agricultural uses. This has reduced the habitat of H. suaveolens to tiny scattered remnants, whose quality may be further diminished by livestock grazing and herbicide run-off from agricultural land. Similar patterns of environmental degradation appear to threaten this species throughout much of its range. There are even indications that it is declining in several states within the center of its range. Hasteola suaveolens was listed as an endangered species in Minnesota in 1984.
Hasteola suaveolens is a tall perennial herb with a characteristic appearance. Most distinctive are the leaves, which are rather large, alternate on the stem, and have long partially decurrent petioles. The peculiar shape of the leaf is called hastate, which gives the plant its name. Hastate means there are two basal lobes pointing outward at an angle of 90 degrees from the long axis of the leaf. The basal lobes and the leaf tip are pointed, and the margins are lined with small sharp, forward-pointing teeth. Flowers are creamy white to pinkish with 20-40 per head arranged in flat-topped clusters (Anderson 1994).
The native habitat of H. suaveolens in Minnesota appears to be moist riverbanks, wet meadows along stream courses, and the edge of riparian marshes. These habitats are often on floodplains but not on floodways where water scouring or sedimentation happen frequently. Suitable habitats are typically in full sunlight or partial shade.
Biology / Life History
A perennial plant, H. suaveolens is known to spread by rhizomes and by seeds. The flowers are insect-pollinated, though specific pollinator species have not been identified. Seed-dispersal mechanisms are also unknown, though water dispersal seems to likely occur. Although H. suaveolens occurs along rivers and can likely survive brief periods of inundation, it does not appear to be dependent on regular flooding as some riparian species are.
Conservation / Management
Habitat protection is the key to preserving this species in Minnesota. However, further research is needed to determine critical aspects of this species habitat. Clearly invasive plant species, particularly Phalaris arundinacea (reed canary grass), threaten to crowd and displace H. suaveolens in some habitats. Monitoring of H. suaveolens populations for invasive plants and the eradication of invasive plants is needed. White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) will browse this plant, and the overpopulation of deer in some areas could pose a threat to population viability. Livestock grazing and herbicide use are considered incompatible with habitat management goals. There has been an expressed need for information about seed viability and pollinators. Proactive surveys in suitable habitat are advised (Sharp 2000).
Best Time to Search
The best time to search for Hasteola suaveolens is during flowering in late July and August.
Conservation Efforts in Minnesota
One of the H. suaveolens populations in Fillmore County and the only population in Wabasha County are located in state Wildlife Management Areas, which may provide some level of protection. All other known populations are on private land.
Welby R. Smith (MNDNR), 2020
(Note: all content ©MNDNR)
References and Additional Information
Anderson, L. C. 1994. A revision of Hasteola (Asteraceae) in the New World. Systematic Botany 19(2):211-219.
Anderson, L. C. 2006. Hasteola Rafinesque. Pages 610-611 in Flora of North America Committee, editors. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 20. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.
Nekola, J. C. 1990. Rare Iowa plant notes from the R. V. Drexler Herbarium. Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science 97(2):55-73.
Pelser, P. B., B. Nordenstam, J. W. Kadereit, and L. E. Watson. 2007. An ITS phylogeny of tribe Senecioneae (Asteraceae) and a new delimitation of Senecio L. Taxon 56(4):1077-1104.
Sharp, P. C. 2000. New England Plant Conservation Program Conservation and Research Plan, Hasteola suaveolens (L.) Pojark., sweet Indian plantain. New England Wildflower Society, Framingham, Massachusetts.
Williams, C. E. 2010. Sweet-scented Indian-plantain, Hasteola suaveolens (L.) Pojark., in riparian plant communities of the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, Pennsylvania. Castanea 75(4):444-453.