Helianthus strumosus (Woodland Sunflower)

Plant Info
Also known as: Pale-leaved Sunflower
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, woodland edges, roadsides
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:2 to 6 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

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals

[photo of flowers] 3 to 15 flowers at the top of the stem and arising from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are 1½ to 4 inches across with 8 to 20 yellow rays (petals) and a yellow center disk.

[photo of bracts] The bracts behind the flower are relatively short, not much exceeding the center disk, and slightly spreading. Width is variable, more often relatively wide but may be narrow. Edges are usually hairy, surfaces are smooth or variously covered in short, stiff hairs. Flowering stems are typically rough textured.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2½ to 7 inches long, ¾ to 4 inches wide, rounded or slightly tapering at the base, usually with a long taper to a pointed tip but lower leaves may be more egg-shaped. Leaf stalks are 3/8 to 1¼ inches long, leaf edges are toothless or with irregular, shallow teeth, surfaces are variously smooth to hairy, often rough textured on the upper surface and densely short-hairy and paler in color on the underside. Attachment is mostly opposite but may be alternate in the upper plant.

[photo of stem] Stems are mostly smooth, but may be rough near the flowers, and often covered with a white bloom like on the skin of a plum. Stems are unbranched except in the flowers.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

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


Woodland Sunflower is a rather variable species, particularly in leaf shape and degree of hairiness. The few things all the references seem to agree on, and that can actually help distinguish this from other Minnesota native sunflowers, are: a mostly smooth stem that may have a whitish bloom, leaf stalks usually at least ½ inch long, and bracts that do not much exceed the width of the flower disk. Woodland Sunflower most closely resembles Hairy Sunflower (Helianthus hirsutus), which has a bristly hairy stem all the way to the base of the plant, and leaf stalks less than ½ inch long. Woodland Sunflower hybridizes with both Hairy Sunflower and Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), which makes an ID even more challenging.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at Sucker Lake, Ramsey County.


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

Posted by: Angie - St Paul
on: 2015-06-28 11:03:05

This wildflower is along the mouth of the path in battle creek park in St. Paul where the path meets Ruth Street and North Park Drive. It's on the SW corner of the intersection

Posted by: Mohammed - Grafton, Wisconsin
on: 2015-09-23 15:37:56

Picture was taken in September, most of the colony was seeding except some in the shade. How do I upload a picture here?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-09-23 17:13:25

Mohammed, the images on the Minnesota Wildflowers website are taken by staff and select volunteers. Sorry we don't publish fan images here, but you are free to post your images on the Minnesota Wildflowers facebook page if you like.

Posted by: luciearl - Fairview Twp, MN
on: 2016-07-17 08:46:23

A few of these growing along my trail near Pillsbury Forest.

Posted by: Jim B - Fredenberg Township northwest of Duluth
on: 2017-08-15 05:42:03

South facing sunny side of moraine mixed in with aspen and balsam fir, north shore of Fish Lake adjacent to Hi-Banks Resort. Flowering began mid-July.

Posted by: Rachel D. - Plymouth
on: 2018-09-09 13:51:57

Thank you so much for the information you share here. I was able to use the advanced search feature to identify the pretty yellow flowers growing along a trail in our neighborhood. I had no idea there are sunflowers other than the cultivated/crop species!

Posted by: Patrick C. - Minneapolis
on: 2020-08-11 01:52:38

We have the Woodland Sunflower growing in an open wooded area of our backyard bordered by hostess. It is a hardy grower with visual interest. And, gold finches love the seed!! Thanks for the great information on this site.

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2020-08-18 09:36:45

Along the Munger Trail in Moose Lake. Small patch at edge of woods.

Posted by: Dan Bera - Hines
on: 2022-08-10 20:10:50

blooming along the trails at Neilson Spearhead Center.

Posted by: Sheryl Johnson - Northern Isanti County
on: 2022-08-14 16:57:56

Studying weeds and mushrooms for nutrition and health benefits. It's everywhere I look. which is why I looked it up.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.