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Lesser Sunflower

Helianthus petiolaris

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Asteraceae (Daisy)
Also in this family:
Alpine Blue Sow-thistle, Alpine Cotula, Alpine Fleabane, Alpine Saw-wort, Annual Ragweed, Annual Sunflower, Argentine Fleabane, Autumn Hawkbit, Autumn Oxeye, Beaked Hawksbeard, Beggarticks, Bilbao Fleabane, Black Knapweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blanketflower, Blue Fleabane, Blue Globe-thistle, Bristly Oxtongue, Broad-leaved Cudweed, Broad-leaved Ragwort, Brown Knapweed, Butterbur, Buttonweed, Cabbage Thistle, Canadian Fleabane, Canadian Goldenrod, Carline Thistle, Chalk Knapweed, Chamois Ragwort, Changing Michaelmas Daisy, Chicory, Chinese Mugwort, Chinese Ragwort, Coltsfoot, Common Blue Sow-thistle, Common Cat's-ear, Common Cudweed, Common Daisy, Common Dandelion, Common Fleabane, Common Goldenrod, Common Groundsel, Common Michaelmas Daisy, Common Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Common Wormwood, Coneflower, Confused Michaelmas Daisy, Corn Chamomile, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Cotton Thistle, Cottonweed, Creeping Thistle, Daisy Bush, Dwarf Cudweed, Dwarf Thistle, Early Goldenrod, Eastern Groundsel, Eastern Leopardsbane, Elecampane, English Hawkweed, Fen Ragwort, Feverfew, Field Fleawort, Field Wormwood, Fox and Cubs, French Tarragon, Gallant Soldier, Garden Lettuce, Giant Butterbur, Glabrous-headed Hawkweed, Glandular Globe-thistle, Glaucous Michaelmas Daisy, Globe Artichoke, Globe-thistle, Goat's Beard, Golden Ragwort, Golden Samphire, Goldilocks Aster, Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Great Lettuce, Greater Burdock, Greater Knapweed, Grey-headed Hawkweed, Guernsey Fleabane, Hairless Blue Sow-thistle, Hairless Leptinella, Hairy Michaelmas Daisy, Harpur Crewe's Leopardsbane, Hawkweed Oxtongue, Heath Cudweed, Heath Groundsel, Hemp Agrimony, Highland Cudweed, Hoary Mugwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hybrid Knapweed, Intermediate Burdock, Irish Fleabane, Jersey Cudweed, Jerusalem Artichoke, Lance-leaved Hawkweed, Lavender-cotton, Leafless Hawksbeard, Least Lettuce, Leopardplant, Leopardsbane, Leptinella, Lesser Burdock, Lesser Hawkbit, London Bur-marigold, Magellan Ragwort, Marsh Cudweed, Marsh Hawksbeard, Marsh Ragwort, Marsh Sow-thistle, Marsh Thistle, Meadow Thistle, Melancholy Thistle, Mexican Fleabane, Milk Thistle, Mountain Everlasting, Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Musk Thistle, Narrow-leaved Cudweed, Narrow-leaved Hawkweed, Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy, Narrow-leaved Ragwort, New England Hawkweed, New Zealand Holly, Nipplewort, Nodding Bur-marigold, Northern Hawksbeard, Norwegian Mugwort, Oxeye Daisy, Oxford Ragwort, Pearly Everlasting, Perennial Cornflower, Perennial Ragweed, Perennial Sow-thistle, Perennial Sunflower, Pineapple Mayweed, Plantain-leaved Leopardsbane, Ploughman's Spikenard, Plymouth Thistle, Pontic Blue Sow-thistle, Pot Marigold, Prickly Lettuce, Prickly Sow-thistle, Purple Coltsfoot, Rayed Tansy, Red Star Thistle, Red-seeded Dandelion, Red-tipped Cudweed, Robin's Plantain, Roman Chamomile, Rough Cocklebur, Rough Hawkbit, Rough Hawksbeard, Russian Lettuce, Safflower, Salsify, Saw-wort, Scented Mayweed, Scentless Mayweed, Sea Aster, Sea Mayweed, Sea Wormwood, Seaside Daisy, Shaggy Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shaggy Soldier, Shasta Daisy, Shetland Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Shrub Ragwort, Sicilian Chamomile, Silver Ragwort, Slender Mugwort, Slender Thistle, Small Cudweed, Small Fleabane, Smooth Cat's-ear, Smooth Hawksbeard, Smooth Sow-thistle, Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Spear Thistle, Spotted Cat's-ear, Spotted Hawkweed, Sticky Groundsel, Stinking Chamomile, Stinking Hawksbeard, Tall Fleabane, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Tansy, Thin-leaved Sunflower, Trifid Bur-marigold, Tuberous Thistle, Tyneside Leopardplant, Viper's Grass, Wall Lettuce, Welsh Groundsel, Welted Thistle, White Butterbur, White Buttons, Willdenow's Leopardsbane, Winter Heliotrope, Wood Burdock, Wood Ragwort, Woody Fleabane, Woolly Thistle, Yarrow, Yellow Chamomile, Yellow Fox and Cubs, Yellow Oxeye, Yellow Star Thistle, Yellow Thistle, York Groundsel
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
2 metres tall
Beaches, fields, gardens, roadsides, sand dunes, wasteland.

Yellow, many petals
Large, yellow, disc-shaped, slightly nodding flowers. The disc florets are purplish-red. Flowers measure between 3 and 8cm across. Flower stalks are 3 or 4 inches (up to 10cm) in length. Pollinated by bees.
The fruit is an achene (type of seed).
Foliage is dark green. The toothless leaves are long and pointed, going alternate up the stems. The stems are many-branched. The leaves (up to 6 inches or 15cm long) are a paler green than the similar looking and much taller Annual Sunflower (Helianthus annuus).
Other Names:
Plains Sunflower, Prairie Sunflower, Wild Sunflower.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Helianthus petiolaris, also known as the Prairie Sunflower, is a perennial herbaceous plant that is native to the central and eastern regions of North America. It is known for its large, yellow, daisy-like flowers that bloom in late summer and early fall, and its rough, hairy leaves. The plant can grow up to 4-6 feet tall and spread up to 3-4 feet. It is a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of soil and climatic conditions, and is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes. It is also used in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.


Lesser Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris) is a species of sunflower that is native to North America. It is also known by several other names, including Prairie Sunflower and Wild Sunflower. This plant is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes daisies, asters, and chrysanthemums.

The Lesser Sunflower is a hardy and adaptable plant that can grow in a wide range of soil types and environments. It is commonly found in prairies, fields, and along roadsides throughout the Great Plains region of the United States, from Texas to North Dakota, and west to Colorado and Wyoming.

The plant typically grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet (60 to 120 cm), and produces multiple flower heads that are 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) in diameter. The flowers have bright yellow petals that surround a brownish-yellow central disk. The leaves are long and narrow, with a slightly hairy texture, and can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) long.

One of the most distinctive features of the Lesser Sunflower is its long, slender stem. The stem can reach up to 6 feet (180 cm) in length, which is much longer than most other sunflower species. This adaptation allows the plant to grow tall and reach towards the sun, even in crowded environments where it may be shaded by other plants.

Lesser Sunflowers are an important source of food for many different types of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. The seeds of the plant are rich in oils and nutrients, which make them a valuable food source for animals. Additionally, the plant itself can provide shelter and cover for animals, making it an important part of the local ecosystem.

In addition to its ecological importance, the Lesser Sunflower also has cultural significance. It has been used by Native American tribes for a variety of purposes, including medicinal and ceremonial uses. The plant was also important to early European settlers, who used the seeds to make cooking oil and the flowers for decorative purposes.

Despite its many benefits, the Lesser Sunflower is not widely cultivated or grown commercially. This is partly due to the fact that it has a lower seed yield than other sunflower species, and also because it is not as well-known or popular as other sunflowers.

The Lesser Sunflower is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a crucial role in many ecosystems throughout North America. Its unique physical characteristics, ecological benefits, and cultural significance make it a valuable and fascinating subject for further study and appreciation.

The Lesser Sunflower is a hardy and drought-tolerant plant that is able to grow in a wide variety of soil types, from clay to sandy soils. It is also able to tolerate high temperatures and strong winds, which makes it an ideal plant for arid and semi-arid regions.

The plant is known for its ability to attract a wide variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and moths. This is because the plant produces large amounts of nectar, which is a valuable food source for these insects. The flowers of the Lesser Sunflower are also able to self-pollinate, which allows the plant to reproduce even when pollinators are scarce.

The seeds of the Lesser Sunflower are rich in protein and oil, which makes them a valuable food source for humans as well as wildlife. The seeds can be roasted and eaten as a snack, or ground into a meal and used in cooking. The oil extracted from the seeds is high in linoleic acid and other essential fatty acids, which makes it a valuable ingredient in cosmetics and other products.

In addition to its ecological and economic benefits, the Lesser Sunflower is also an important cultural symbol. It has been used by various Native American tribes for a variety of purposes, including as a source of food, medicine, and dye. The plant is also an important symbol of the sun and is often used in traditional sun dances and other ceremonies.

Despite its many benefits, the Lesser Sunflower is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as competition from invasive species. This has led to a decline in the plant's population in some areas, and conservation efforts are needed to protect and restore its habitat.

The Lesser Sunflower is a fascinating and important plant species that plays a critical role in many ecosystems throughout North America. Its unique physical characteristics, ecological benefits, cultural significance, and economic value make it a valuable and important subject for further study and conservation.

The Lesser Sunflower is also known for its ability to phytoremediate contaminated soils. This means that the plant is able to remove pollutants from soil through its root system. The roots of the plant absorb and break down contaminants, which can then be used as a source of nutrients for the plant. This ability to clean up contaminated soil makes the Lesser Sunflower a valuable tool for environmental remediation.

In addition to its ability to phytoremediate soil, the Lesser Sunflower is also useful in erosion control. The plant has a deep and extensive root system, which helps to hold soil in place and prevent erosion. This is particularly important in areas that are prone to erosion, such as steep slopes and riverbanks.

Another interesting aspect of the Lesser Sunflower is its ability to hybridize with other sunflower species. This has led to the development of several new hybrid varieties, which are often used in commercial agriculture. For example, the hybridization of the Lesser Sunflower with the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) has resulted in the development of a new sunflower variety that is better suited to drought-prone regions.

Overall, the Lesser Sunflower is a fascinating and important plant species that has many uses and benefits. Its unique physical characteristics, ecological benefits, cultural significance, economic value, and ability to phytoremediate and control erosion make it a valuable and versatile plant that is worth studying and conserving.