This deep-rooted perennial forms small tufts, or clumps, of basal grey-green leaves and many stems 10–30 cm tall. The flower heads, one to three or four per stem, are 2–3 cm across with many (up to one hundred) narrow, white ray florets that look like thin petals around a yellow centre.
According to Wilkinson, the plant contains volatile, turpentine-like oil, and “the smoke of burned plants is said to repel gnats and fleas.” (259) Perhaps this is an explanation for the common name. She further reports “the liquid from the boiled roots and leaves was used to treat many ailments such as rheumatism, haemorrhoids and gonorrhoea. The Cree boiled the plant and drank the resulting tea as a diarrhea remedy.” (259)
Growth habit and range: This is a tufted, herbaceous perennial which occurs on dry sites and hillsides of the southern portion of the province. This erect plant grows to a height of 10–30 cm.
Description: The leaves of this plant are grey-green in colour, and hairy and have a smooth margin and three longitudinal veins. The basal leaves are stalked, oblong to lanceolate in shape, and 2.5–7 cm in length, while the stem leaves have no stalk and are smaller and linear to oblong in shape.
The daisy-like flowers appear from June to August and are borne singly or in small numbers at the stem tips. Each flower measures up to 2.5 cm in diameter and is comprised of 60–90 white (or sometimes blue or pink) ray florets each 5–15 mm in length and 1–2.5 mm wide, and a central cluster of yellow disk florets. Three to 4 series of bracts surround the base of each flower. The fruit is an achene, measuring 1–2 mm in length, which has a bristly pappus.
Wilkinson, Kathleen. 1999. Wildflowers of Alberta: A Guide to Common Wildflowers and Other Herbaceous Plants. University of Alberta Press and Lone Pine Publishing, AB.