Helianthus occidentalis (Few-leaf Sunflower)
|Also known as:||Naked-stem Sunflower, Western Sunflower|
|Habitat:||sun; dry sandy or rocky soil; fields, prairies, open woods|
|Bloom season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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There are 1 to a few flowers at the end of long, naked, loosely branching stems at the top of the plant, with a small, leafy bract at the base of the branch. Flowers are 1½ to 2½ inches across, have 8 to 15 yellow rays (petals) and yellow center disk flowers.
Leaves and stem:
There is a rosette of long-stalked leaves around the base of the plant, plus 1 to 4 pairs of small, widely spaced, oppositely attached stem leaves. Basal leaves are up to 4 inches long and 1½ inch wide that are oval to triangular in shape, with a blunt or pointed tip. The stem leaves are similarly shaped, with little or no stalk. All leaves are toothless or nearly so and are very rough to the touch. The stem is covered in appressed hairs and is often reddish brown.
The center disk forms a head of dry seed, each about 1/8 inch long and without a tuft of hairs but with 2 short, bristly scales at the top.
Few-leaf Sunflower is easy to identify by the rosette of stalked, basal leaves and the pairs of small, widely spaced, stalkless leaves on the stem. There are 2 recognized subspecies, subsp. plantagineus, which has serrated, smooth leaves and is restricted to 3 southern states, and subsp. occidentalis, with rough, mostly toothless leaves found in Minnesota and much of the eastern half of the US.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Wild River State Park, Chisago County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Sherburne County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?