Native Plant Spotlight: Sunflower Everlasting


For today’s edition of Native Plant Spotlight, I actually had originally miss-identified for quite a while.  But now I know better, and so, a good topic for this spotlight.  About this time of year I see blooming along my bike path to work/running path network a tall, yellow, sunflower family flower.  It seems to like sun, but is found in partial shade, medium, yet disturbed soil and will grow into respectable colonies of many meters in length in some spots.  I admired, but never looked close- and so- assumed it was Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus.

But what should I have learned about assuming by now?

See, from afar H. tuberosus and Sunflower Everlasting (or oxeye or false sunflower, but I think Sunflower Everlasting sounds divine) aka Heliopsis helanthoides look very similar.  I had to inspect the disk flower (the center portion) to really see the difference.  H. tuberosus has a small, flatter disk in comparison to H. helianthoides and H. helianthoides has a remarkably beautiful disk flower.  Observe:


Each one is separate and identifiable, unlike so many other sunflowers/aster family members with the center just jam-packed.  You can see that each disk flower is actually a flower.  And for that, I really wanted to give this plant a shout-out.

Heliopsis species fall into the DYC (damn yellow composite) family, meaning my ID may be off- and apparently they can cross pollinate, causing even the most stalwart botanists to pull their hair out.  But upon cross-checking to other likely culprits (the aforementioned H. tubersus and the swamp sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius)

Technically, I’ve read in my Wildflowers of New England guide that it is not native to my Massachusetts, but is native to the rest of eastern US.  And so I see that as splitting hairs.  Is it forcing out other natives?  Probably not terribly.  Does it spread with reckless abandon?  Doesn’t seem to.  And so I forgive it.

Cheers sunflower everlasting!




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