Brown Knapweed

Brown Knapweed
Brown Knapweed. Centaurea jacea.
Asteraceae, the daisy, sunflower, or composite family.

Plant: Branching, wiry stems to 3', with narrow, toothed gray-green leaves, and spidery pink to purple flower heads borne singly or in small groups. Perennial.
Flowers: Pink to purple heads composed entirely of disk flowers, about 1" wide with distinctive swollen base. Flowers deeply split into linear lobes, giving the head a spidery or starburst appearance. Distinctive features include brown-tipped, unfringed involucral bracts, and outer disk flowers that are longer than the inner ones. Borne in small groups at termination of the stems, and sometimes singly in leaf axils.
Leaves: Alternate, gray-green, narrowly ovate to lanceolate, 4"-6", sparsely toothed, and sessile. Sometimes there are small lobes at the base.
Fruit: Dry, seed-like, with silky hairs that allow it to be transported by the wind.
Blooming: July-September
Habitat: Fields, waste areas, disturbed ground.

Comments: Naturalized from Europe, this plant can be an invasive weed. The flowers are similar to spotted knapweed (C. maculosa); it is distinguished by having simple rather than linearly dissected leaves, and by brown-tipped, unfringed rather than dark-tipped, fringed bracts. The plants grow in similar habitats, and I have found them growing adjacent to each other.

Where to find it: I have found one patch in the high meadow north of the pond, and another adjacent to the big patch of spotted knapweed by the paved main trail about 100 yards from the lodge.