Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem Artichoke)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Helianthus
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist fields, thickets, edges of woods
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:3 to 10 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals

[photo of flowers] 3 to 15 flowers at the top of the plant. Flower is up to 3½ inches across made up of 10 to 20 yellow rays (petals) and yellow-orange disk flowers in the center.

[photo of bracts] The bracts on the underside of the flower are about ½ inch long, hairy, sharply pointed and spreading at the tips.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 10 inches long and to 5 inches wide, gradually tapering to a point at the tip and abruptly narrowed near the base, on stalks from ¾ to 3 inches long that are often winged. Leaf edges are serrated to nearly toothless, the lower leaf surface is hairy and the upper rough textured. Attachment is opposite but may be alternate near the top of the plant. The stem is green or reddish and covered with stiff hairs, giving it a rough feel.

[photo of developing tubers] Small tubers are produced late in the season.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The center disk forms a head of dry seed, each about ¼ inch long and without a tuft of hairs, but with 2 bristly scales at the tip.

Notes:

Jerusalem Artichoke resembles several other tall, Minnesota native sunflowers but has the largest and proportionately broadest leaves of the lot. It spreads vegetatively via rhizomes and can create sizable populations. Prior to European settlement, its tubers were cultivated by Native Americans as an important source of carbohydrates and is still grown by food naturalists today. Its robust growth habit, however, was problematic in post-European agriculture and until recently it was listed as a noxious weed until modern herbicides removed it as an agricultural nuisance. In native habitats and in agricultural margins it is an important species for both foraging  and nesting  for pollinators, and its seeds are a rich food source for birds.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: zach - burnsville, blackdog park
on: 2010-09-12 17:07:04

growing behind my fence in a sliver of blackdog park

Posted by: Karl - Bemidji
on: 2011-08-05 19:55:11

I have a little patch of these growing on my farm. Each fall we dig out a few plants to put the tubers into stews. Very delicious!

Posted by: Stefan - Saint Paul
on: 2012-05-18 13:32:40

Can you please explain the *Noxious Weed status indicated above? I didn't see this listed on the MN Noxious Weeds list. Is it designated noxious in certain MN counties? Thanks,

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-05-18 18:21:48

H. tuberosus would be a county-level noxious weed, though I can't tell you which counties. There are other "noxious" natives as well such as common milkweed, which can be a pretty aggressive breeder. The designation is strictly agricultural, not environmental. Speaking of weeds, MDA and the DNR have been revising their plant lists over the past couple years. MDA doesn't seem to be publishing county lists any more so I don't know what the status is now.

Update: the "noxious" status was given long ago due to this species (and many others) being an agricultural pest. Round-up ready crops took care of that problem and that status no longer applies.

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