golden alexanders

Zizia aurea (golden Alexanders) blooms from April-June, producing flat-topped umbel flower heads covered in tiny yellow flowers. The flowers attract a variety of butterflies, native bees, bumble bees, and honeybees to the garden.

This member of the Apiaceae (carrot family) is native to North America from Quebec and Saskatchewan in Canada, south to Florida, west to Texas, and east through New England. In its native range, Z. aurea can be found in moist to mesic prairies, woodlands, savannas, meadows, and thickets growing in open sun to partial shade. Golden Alexander adapts well to garden conditions, often growing up to 3 ft. tall when planted in full-sun and moderately-rich, moist soils.

Zizia aurea serves as the primary larval host for the black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes). Golden Alexander also attracts and hosts a number of beneficial insects that are predatory or parasitoid on many common garden pest insects.

Golden Alexander is considered a short-lived perennial, meaning individual plants may live only up to five years. However, the species readily self-seeds into the garden so there is a constant source of new plants. In the Lurie Garden, Z. aurea is used as a filler plant–occupying available open soil spaces to keep weeds out of the garden. In this role, golden Alexander ‘wanders’ around the garden as the plant’s seed moves from location-to-location. For aesthetic reasons, seedlings of Z. aurea are often removed from the garden when they ‘wander’ too far!

Botanical Name Zizia aurea
Common Name golden Alexanders
Family Apiaceae
USDA Zone 3 to 8
Light Requirement Full Sun to Part Shade
Season(s) of interest Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Height and Spread
1.5-3ft x 1.5-2ft (45-90cm x 45-60cm)
Flower Color Yellow
Attracts Wildlife
Butterflies and Other Pollinators, Important food source for Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars (Host Plant)
Additional Information
Native to the Chicago Region. Native range: Quebec to Sasdatchewan, south to Texas, east to Florida
Location in Lurie Garden Northwest Light Plate, Southwest Light Plate, Southeast Light Plate