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Plectocephalus americanus   (Nutt. ) D. Don
[=Centaurea americana Nutt.]
(Marion McGlohon photo)
Height: 20-80 inches
Family: Asteraceae - Sunflower Family
Flowering Period:   June, July
Also Called: American star-thistle, powderpuff thistle.
Stems: Erect, sparingly branched above mid-stem, glabrous, minutely scabrous and minutely glandular.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, sessile, mostly entire, margins entire or minutely toothed, surfaces glabrous or scabrous, often dotted with minute yellow to brown glands; basal blades often absent at anthesis, oblanceolate to narrowly obovate, 4 to 8 inches long, .6 to 1.4 inches wide, angled or tapered to sharp point; cauline blades gradually reduced, ovate to lanceolate, mostly 2 to 4 inches long.
Inflorescences: Heads, hemispheric, borne singly at end of stem or branches, disciform, 1.2 to 3.2 inches across, showy. Involucres broadly hemispheric, 1 to 1.8 inches tall, wider than tall. Phyllaries many in 6-10 series, appressed, overlapping, of two distinct parts, lower part pale green, entire, upper part straw-colored, with a comb-like fringe of 9-15 stiff, parallel bristles.
Flowers: Ray florets absent; discoid florets many, deeply 5-lobed, lobes linear; outer corollas larger, pink to occasionally purplish-red or rarely white, 1.4 to 2 inches, raylike, usually sterile; central corollas pinkish, .8 to 1 inch, usually fertile.
Fruits: Achenes, grayish brown to black, obovoid to oblong, .16 to .2 inch, somewhat flattened, glabrous or sparsely hairy; pappus bristles white, stiff, unequal, barbed, .24 to .55 inch.
Habitat: Prairies, fields, roadsides, disturbed sites
Distribution: Collected in Meade, Neosho, Saline, and Woodson counties. Specimens from Meade and Neosho counties appear to be from introductions.
Origin: Native
Uses: The Kiowa applied a poultice of leaves to skin sores (Moerman 1998).
Comments: American basket-flower is not spiny though it is sometimes referred to as star-thistle or powderpuff thistle. The common name basket-flower alludes to the basket-like appearance of the overlapping phyllaries. It is sometimes cultivated as a garden ornamental.

American basket-flower
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(Marion McGlohon photo)
American basket-flower habit
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(Marion McGlohon photo)
American basket-flower inflorescence
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(Marion McGlohon photo)
American basket-flower
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(Marion McGlohon photo)