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A Comprehensive Guide to Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)

Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) is a herbaceous perennial that is found in open areas with moist soil such prairies, fields, and powerline right-of-ways. It has yellow flowers that appear in the summer. It is the host plant for two species of swallowtail butterflies and a species of mining bee. It is a nectar plant for many other insects including bees, flies, and wasps. This plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and History of Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)

Herbarium specimen of golden alexander (Zizia aurea).
Herbarium Specimen — Zizia aurea (L.) W.D.J.Koch collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)


Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) was originally described by Carl Von Linnaeus as Smyrnium aureum in 1753 in Species Plantarum. The genus name was later changed in 1824 to Zizia. This species is a member of the Carrot Family (Apiaceae).

Golden Alexander Description and Alternative Names

Yellow flowers of golden alexander (Zizia aurea).
Flowers of Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) — Cbaile19, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


This plant is a herbaceous perennial plant that grows from 1 to 3 feet tall. The leaves are compound with lanceolate serrate leaflets that range from 1 to 2 inches in length and about 2 inches in width.

Alternative Names

This plant is also known by golden zizia, meadow parsnip, and wild parsley.

Range and Habitat

Meadow habitat in Europe.
Meadow Habitat — Leonhard Lenz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


This species is found in eastern North America from Texas north to North Dakota and east.


It is generally found in open areas that have moist soil. In gardens it likes places that are sunny or have partial shade and moist conditions.

Golden mining bee on black background.
Golden Mining Bee — USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, Maryland, USA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Bumblebee on pink flower.
Bumblebee on Flower — Joaquim Alves Gaspar, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Host Species

Golden Alexander is the host plant for the black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), and the Ozark Swallowtail (Papilio joanae). The Golden Alexander Mining bee (Andrena ziziae) uses the pollen of this species. (Wikipedia).

Other Wildlife Value

Numerous other insects such bees, flies, and wasps use this species as a nectar source.

Interesting Facts

The genus name, Zizia, is named for Johann Baptist Ziz, a German botanist (Wikipedia). The species name, aurea, is Latin for golden.

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