Blanket Flower Leaf Identification

Overview

About 30 different species of blanket flowers (Gaillardia spp.) exist, all native to the prairies and open/sunny hillsides across North and South America. Gardeners are likely most familiar with three species: Gaillardia aristata, Gaillardia pulchella and Gaillardia x grandiflora, the last being a hybrid of the first two species. They are annual or perennial herbs that grow 8 to 30 inches tall when they produce their vibrantly colored yellow to red flowers.

Habit

Blanket flower plants produce leaves from herbaceous (non-woody) stems that are bendable and green. Typically these plants begin a growing season as a basal rosette of leaves that later produces upright stems with leaves, topped by jagged daisy-like flowers.

Arrangement

Examine the stems. Blanket flower leaves are arranged in an alternating pattern along the length of the stems. More leaves occur toward the bottom of stems and branches than at the top where the flowers occur.

Features

Blanket flower leaves can be variable among different plants of the same species or upon the same plant, depending on their location or age. Generally speaking, leaves are medium to grayish green and feel rough and fuzzy to the touch, like fine sandpaper. Leaf shape is most often inversely lance-shaped--narrowest at the base and then slowly widening to look like a narrow tongue at the end. Gaillardia aristata produces leaves that are shallowly lobed or jagged to look like dandelion leaves according to "A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants." All species' leaves may be smooth or toothed on their edges.

Size

Smallest when young and first emerging from the stem, mature leaves of blanket flowers range from 3 to 12 inches long and rarely any wider than 1 to 1-1/2 inch. Gaillardia pulchella's leaves are among the smallest, only 3 inches long and no more than 1/2 inch wide.

Insight

The Flora of North America and Learn2Grow websites note that blanket flower leaves also display small but visible oil glands on their leaves, helping distinguish them from other wildflowers even when no flowers are present.

Longevity

Once a killing fall frost occurs, foliage dies back, becoming dry and brown. Older leaves or those waning because of drought first wilt and turn yellow before browning and dropping to the soil and crumbling away.

Keywords: blanket flower foliage, Gaillardia leaf indentification, native American wildflowers

About this Author

James Burghardt became a full-time writer in 2008 with articles appearing on Web sites like eHow and GardenGuides. He's gardened and worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.