The Friends of the Wildflower Garden, Inc.

Plants of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States


Common Name
Stiff Tickseed (Stiff Coreopsis, Bird's-foot Coreopsis, Prairie Coreopsis)


Scientific Name
Coreopsis palmata Nutt.


Plant Family
Aster (Asteraceae)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Early to Late Summer Flowering



Stiff Tickseed is a native, erect, perennial plant of the prairies and open woods, growing up to three feet high on stiff erect unbranched stems.

The leaves are opposite, stalkless, with three elongated lobes that divide above the base of the leaf. Sometimes the center lobe may divide again, and leaves near the top of the stem may not be lobed at all. The leaf stalk is winged, appearing to be a continuation of the center lobe. Fall color can be a brilliant deep russet-red.

The floral array is one to several flower heads on short stalks at the top of the stem.

Flowers: The flower heads are composite, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches wide and are composed of 8 yellow ray florets which have rays with rounded tips that are a bit ragged. The ray is broadest just above the center. These are neuter as to sex. The ray florets surround a central disc of up to 60+ disc florets with greenish corollas, shading to yellow as they open. These are bisexual and fertile. The corolla throat has 5 pointed lobes that do not reflex or spread outward. There are 5 stamens with dark brown anthers that tightly surround the style. Both stamens and style are exserted from the corolla throat when floret opens. The center disc is 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide. The outside of the flower head has 9 to 12+ long and narrow involucral bracts (called "calyculi") with pointed tips that spread outward and then upward when the flower is open. Above these are 8 shorter but broader phyllaries.

Seed: Fertilized disc florets produce dry oblong cypselae (similar to achenes), 5 to 6 mm long, without pappus, but with 2 thin wings with projecting tips. These are distributed by the wind shaking the stem.


Habitat: Stiff Tickseed grows from a rhizomatous root system and spreads to form colonies via the rhizomes. Without competition it can be aggressive. It is a true prairie plant and requires full sun, loamy soils with mesic to dry conditions. Plants can be grown from seed which requirers 60 days of cold stratification for germination. Best to plant fresh seed in the fall and let Winter do the work.

Names: The genus name, Coreopsis, is from two Greek words - koris, meaning 'a bug' and opsis, meaning 'like' and refers to the appearance of the dry fruit which resembles a bug or a tick. The species name, palmata, refers to 'lobed', like a hand with outstretched fingers, which is the way the leaf looks. The author name for the plant classification, from 1818 - ‘Nutt.’ refers to Thomas Nuttall (1786-1859) English botanist who lived and worked in America from 1808 to 1841. On his many expeditions he collected many species that had been originally collected by Lewis and Clark but lost by them on their journey to St. Louis.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Flower center plants

Above: 1st photo - The outer ring of disc florets have opened and show the dark color of the anthers at maturity.

Below: 1st photo - The flower head has 8 broadly oblong phyllaries, matching the number of ray florets, subtended by 9 to 12+ green linear calyculi. 2nd photo - The stem is unbranched with upper most leaves with smaller lobes. 3rd photo - Sometimes the center lobe of the leaf may divide again. The leaf stalk is winged, appearing to be a continuation of the center lobe.

Phyllaries of flower head Stiff Coreopsis leaf

Seeds: 1st photo - The drying flower head shows the yellow lobes of the phyllaries and the greenish involucral bracts (calyculi) rising from the stalk. 2nd photo - cypselae show the 2 thin wings used for wind dispersion. 3rd photo - The root system is rhizomatous and spreads to form colonies via the rhizomes.

seed capsule seeds root

Below: Fall color can be a very deep scarlet-red. Beautiful color with the right seasonal conditions.

fall color

Below: The outer ray florets have rays with somewhat ragged tips. The central disc florets are fertile, opening from the outside toward the center.

Stiff Coreopsis


Notes: Eloise Butler first obtained plants of Stiff Tickseed on July 12, 1910, collected on the grounds of the Agricultural College in St. Paul. On July 2, 1912, a plant from Glenwood Park (which surrounded the Garden) was brought in and on Sept. 26, another from Minnehaha in Minneapolis. 8 more from Glenwood Park in Oct. 1918 and on April 28, 1923 from Horsford's Nursery in Charlotte, Vermont; also on July 15, 1927 from Northeast Minneapolis. This plant was listed on Martha Crone's 1951 inventory of plants in the Garden at that time, but she made no record of ever planting it. Stiff Tickseed is native to the southern 2/3rds of Minnesota with a few scattered counties excepted; and in 13 other states of the Mississippi River drainage system. It is not reported in Canada. There are 35 species of the genus world-wide, 28 in North America.

Coreopsis palmata is one of three species of Coreopsis found in Minnesota. The other two are C. lanceolata, Lance-leaf Tickseed, and C. tinctoria, Golden Tickseed. Those two are much less widely found in the state. Neither are present in the Garden today but C. lanceolata is historical in that Eloise Butler planted it in 1910 and 1911.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.