heart-leaved golden alexanders

(Zizia aptera)

Conservation Status
heart-leaved golden alexanders
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FACU - Facultative upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland


Heart-leaved golden alexanders is a 12 to 36 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 and sometimes lower stem leaves are usually heart-shaped, neither lobed nor compound, ¾ to 5 long, about 3 wide, and on long leaf stalks. Sometimes they are divided into 3 stalked leaflets (ternate), or 3 lobes.

Stem leaves are usually ternate, occasionally undivided, occasionally divided into 3 lobes, sometimes with each lobe divided into 3 secondary lobes. 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 1¼ 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 36


Flower Color




Similar Species


Golden alexanders (Zizia aurea) basal leaves and lower stem leaves are always ternate or biternate, never heart-shaped. Lower stem leaves are usually triternate or biternate.

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, wood openings, savannas, thickets. Sandy soil. Full sun.




May to July


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 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






Zizia aptera var. occidentalis

Zizia cordata


Common Names


heart-leaf alexanders

heart-leaved golden alexanders

heartleaf Alexanders

meadow 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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Basal Leaves

    heart-leaved golden alexanders   heart-leaved golden alexanders  
    heart-leaved golden alexanders      

Lower Stem Leaves

    heart-leaved golden alexanders      

Upper Stem Leaves

    heart-leaved golden alexanders   heart-leaved golden alexanders  






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