Wild Quinine

Parthenium integrifolium

Description & Overview

Wild Quinine is a hardy Wisconsin native perennial with long-lasting, tiny, pearl-like white flowers that bloom from May to August. The unique flowers form button-like clusters on a stiff green stem. The large, coarse, stiff leaves set it apart from other prairie plants.

You may also know this plant as American Feverfew or Eastern Feverfew.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 20-40 inches
Mature Spread: 18-24 inches
Growth Rate: Moderate
Growth Form: Erect, clump-forming
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Site Requirements: Sandy, loamy soil, dry to moist, well-drained soil.
Flower: White, dense, cauliflower-like, flat-topped clusters, lightly fragrant with five rays surrounding the very small center of disc flowers. Only ray flowers are fertile.
Bloom Period: July – September
Foliage: Aromatic, green, broad, rough to the touch, 4-8” long
Fall Color: None
Fruit Notes: Black seed – seldom produced

Suggested Uses:

Wild Quinine, a Wisconsin Threatened species, thrives in open woods, thickets, glades, and rocky prairies; however, it is very adaptable and tolerant of many soil types. Luckily for SE Wisconsin residents, this plant thrives in full sun and clay soils! Habitat loss is the biggest contributor to the decline in populations. At present, it is found sparingly throughout the southern third of the state.

Uniquely textured, pollinator-friendly flowers add diversity to the typical prairie restoration or native garden. It self-sows prolifically, a desirable trait in a naturalization/restoration project as it achieves full coverage fast, preventing the spread of invasive exotics. Planted in mass, in summer, flowers resemble beautiful white clouds.

The cut flowers make a great addition to a fresh or dried bouquet as they are long-lasting and hold up nicely.

Wildlife Value:

Wild Quinine provides nectar and pollen to a variety of native pollinators, though bees and flies are the top visitors. Sweat bees, mining bees, carpenter bees, solitary, nomad, and yellow-faced bees are just some of the examples of bees found at these flowers.

Common Wood-Nymphs, Pearl Crescents, American Ladies, and Banded Hairstreak butterflies visit Wild Quinine for nectar, as well as the Grapeleaf Skeletonizer moth.

Wild Quinine attracts a great number of beetles, wasps, ants, sawflies, flies, and plant bugs.

Maintenance Tips:

Flower heads mature to brown achenes and when left up, provided interesting form and color in winter.

Much of the spread of Wild Quinine is through rhizomes. Although the cutting of flower heads may slow spread, it may simply need to be thinned out every few years if space is limited. Consider leaving the plant alone to provide as much shelter for wildlife as possible.


Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

The leaves have a very rough texture and contain tannins, both of which deter deer and rabbits.

There are no serious pest or disease concerns.

Leaf Lore:

The genus name Parthenium is from the Greek meaning “virgin” referring to the fertile ray florets and infertile disk florets of species in this genus. The specific epithet integrifolium means “with entire or uncut leaves.”

Historically, Wild Quinine was used medicinally in a variety of ways. The boiled roots we used to treat dysentery and the leaves which contain tannins were made into a paste and used to treat burns. Leaves were also left in their entirety and applied to the wounded area.

With bitter-tasting leaves, the Apache would boil them into a coffee-like beverage.

Companion Plants:

Other plants from dry-mesic ‘black soil’ prairies make excellent, natural companion plants. Plant alongside Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya), Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia), White Prairie Clover (Dalea candida), Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), and Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).

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