Heliopsis helianthoides (Smooth Oxeye)
|Also known as:||Common Ox-eye, False Sunflower, Sunflower Heliopsis|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; prairies, along roads, railroads, edges of woods, thickets|
|Bloom season:||June - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 6 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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1 to 15 stalked flowers in a loose cluster at the top of the plant. Flowers are 1½ to 3½ inches across, with 10 to 18 pale yellow to orange-yellow petals (ray flowers) and a golden yellow to brownish cone-shaped center disk.
There are 2 layers of hairy, appressed to spreading bracts surrounding the base of the flower, though it may appear to be a single row. The bracts alternate, the inner bracts short with pointed tips and the outer longer and broader, usually with rounded tips though they may be pointed. Flower stalks are green and rough-hairy.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are up to 4½ inches long and 3 inches wide, somewhat egg-shaped, tapering to a pointed tip, with coarsely toothed to serrated edges and a leaf stalk up to about 1 inch long. The color ranges from bright green to dark green. The texture is very rough and the edges can be wavy. Stems are erect, typically branched and rough from short hairs..
The center disk becomes a head of dark seeds that lack tufts of hair.
The easiest way to identify this plant is by the bracts: look for the alternating long and short bracts. Most references describe this plant as growing up to 5 feet tall but I've come across some closer to 6 feet tall, though that is uncommon. Smooth Oxeye is not a true sunflower. The ray flowers of true sunflowers are sterile, but are fertile in this plant. Smooth Oxeye has a long blooming period, with the first blooms appearing by mid-June and the last dying out around the end of September. It grows in dry prairie as well as moister soils at woodland or wetland edges; plants are more robust in moister conditions than dry. USDA lists 4 varieties of Heliopsis helianthoides, though only 2 are recognized by Flora of North America: var. helianthoides with smoother leaves found east of the Mississippi River, and var. scabra with rough-textured leaves found in the Midwest, including Minnesota, and west of the Mississippi.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Smooth Oxeye plants
- Smooth Oxeye in prairie habitat
- Smooth Oxeye with Swamp Milkweed and Blue Vervain
- Smooth Oxeye plants, near 6 feet tall
- more flowers
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Glacial Lakes State Park, Pope County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?