Yellow Wingstem is a perennial plant with a fibrous root system. Wings, or flaps of leafy tissue, run down the length of the stem, and the flowers are yellow thus the common name Yellow Wingstem. Other common names include Yellow Crownbeard and Gravelweed. The origin of the genus name, Verbesina, is not known, but some have suggested that it is the result of a printer’s error for Forbesina. The species name, helianthoides, is Latin meaning “like a sunflower”. A scientific synonym is Actinomeris helianthoides.
The seeds are relished by bobwhite quail, songbirds and small mammal species. The plant is eaten by deer in summer, and the caterpillars of a couple species of butterfly feed on the foliage as well. Flowers are visited primarily by long-tongued bees including bumblebees, honeybees and others for the pollen and nectar.