golden alexanders

(Zizia aurea)

Conservation Status
golden alexanders
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Golden alexanders is a 12 to 24 tall, erect, perennial forb that rises from a dense cluster of coarse, fibrous, tuberous-thickened roots.

The stems are erect or ascending, hairless or nearly hairless, keeled, and branched above the middle.

Basal leaves are more or less circular in outline, 1½ to 5½ long and wide, and on long leaf stalks. They are divided into 3 stalked leaflets (ternate), or divided into 3 stalked segments, each segment divided into 3 leaflets (biternate). The central leaflets on biternate leaves are stalked, the lateral 2 leaflets unstalked.

Stem leaves are alternate and similar to basal leaves. Lower stem leaves are large and on long leaf stalks. They may be divided into 3 main divisions, with each division divided into 3 segments, and each segment divided into 3 leaflets (triternate), or they may be biternate. The leaves become progressively smaller, less divided, and on shorter leaf stalks as they ascend the stem. Upper stem leaves are nearly stalkless and once ternate.

The leaflets are egg-shaped to lance-shaped, 1 to 4¾ long, and ½ to 1¼ wide. They are hairless, rounded or tapered asymmetrically at the base, and tapered to a point or blunt at the tip. They may have 1 or 2 shallow lobes. The margins are sharply toothed with 5 to 10 fine, forward-pointing teeth every .

The inflorescence is a compound umbel at the end of the stem and branches. It is up to 3 in diameter and has 11 to 16 slender, ¼ to 2 long branches (rays). There is no bract at the base of the umbel. At the end of each ray is a small umbel (umbellet). There are 11 to 19 or more individual flowers in each umbellet. The central flower in each umbellet is stalkless or nearly stalkless. There is a leaf-like bract at the base of each umbellet.

The flowers are about across. The 5 petals are bright yellow and curve inward. There are 5 yellow stamens with yellow anthers. Some of the stamens do not protrude above the petals. There is no floral scent.

The fruit is dry, oval to egg-shaped, 1 16 to long, 1 16 wide achene. It is ribbed but is not winged. At maturity it splits into 2 segments, each containing 1 seed.




12 to 24


Flower Color




Similar Species


Heart-leaved golden alexanders (Zizia aptera) basal leaves and sometimes lower stem leaves are heart-shaped, not compound and not lobed.

Wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is much taller, up to 60 tall at maturity. The leaves are pinnately compound with 5 to 15 leaflets.

Yellow meadow parsnip (Thaspium barbinode) umbellets have a central flower that is on a short but distinct flower stalk. The achenes are winged.


Moderate moisture to wet. Moist prairies, savannas, thickets, woodland edges and openings, and trailsides. Sandy soil. Full sun to partial shade.




May to July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 24, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Apiales (carrots, ivies, and allies)  
  Suborder Apiineae  


Apiaceae (carrot)  
  Subfamily Apioideae  
  Tribe Selineae  


Zizia (golden alexanders)  

Subordinate Taxa








Common Names


common golden alexanders

golden alexanders

golden zizia













A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded fruit, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.



Twice ternate. A leaf divided into 3 segments, with each segment divided into 3 leaflets.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



Folded, as in a grass blade, or with a raised ridge, as in a grass sheath; like the keel of a boat.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



A strap-shaped flower, or the strap-shaped portion of a flower, in the Asteraceae (aster) family. A branch of an umbel in the Apiaceae (carrot) family.



Refers to leaves that are divided into three leaflets or sections.



Three times ternate. A leaf divided into 3 main divisions, with each division divided into 3 segments, and each segment divided into 3 leaflets.



A flat-topped or convex, umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers or buds arising from more or less a single point.



A secondary umbel in a compound umbel.



A thin, flat, membranous, usually transparent appendage on the margin of a structure.

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Greg Watson

    golden alexanders   golden alexanders  


    golden alexanders      


    golden alexanders   golden alexanders  
    golden alexanders      


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    golden alexanders   golden alexanders  


    golden alexanders   golden alexanders  



  Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)  
Frank Mayfield



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Other Videos
  Early Spring Growth - Pussy Toes, Golden Alexander, Canada Columbine & Prairie Smoke

Published on Apr 28, 2013

Rich looks at some early spring growth in the native planting. The plants shown are Pussy Toes (Antennaria Plantaginifolia), Golden Alexander (Zizia Aurea), Canada Columbine (Aquilegia Canadensis) & Prairie Smoke (Geum Triflorum).




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  Greg Watson

Location: Apple Blossom Overlook Park

golden alexanders  
  Greg Watson

Location: Eagles Bluff Park in La Crescent, MN

golden alexanders  
  Crystal Boyd

Location: Pine Bend Bluffs SNA


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