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August 2006: Featured Plant
Helianthus hirsutus: Hairy Sunflower, Woodland Sunflower

Helianthus hirsutus: Harry Sunflower, Woodland Sunflower.

Always a pleasure to see the first native sunflowers come into flower. They signal, although few are in a mood to listen, that the end of summer is coming. Amongst the ones planted at Sparkleberry Springs, this colony is usually the first to make the declaration.

It is Helianthus hirsutus, Hairy Sunflower, Woodland Sunflower. It has medium-size leaves, is unbranched, and makes a dense colony by underground rhizomes. Its flowers are attractive to bees and butterflies, and its leaves serve as caterpillar food for American Lady, Spring Azure, and the uncommon Silvery Checkerspot. Large yellow-petaled heads in the mid-late summer produce large seeds in the autumn that are attractive to birds.

Armitage (2006) says all nontuberous perennial, native, species of Helianthus move quickly (have land-eating tendencies, in his words) and their height can overwhelm a garden. This is probably true in excellent prepared soil, but both of these characters have definite advantages in other landscapes in which most of us have more interest. He includes this species in this group, and although I would argue it has small tubers, I can support Armitage's claim that Helianthus hirsutus does move at a modest rate.

Image by Glenn Galau ©