Helianthus petiolaris

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Helianthus petiolaris
Helianthus petiolaris USDA.jpg
Prairie sunflower
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Helianthus
Species: H. petiolaris
Binomial name
Helianthus petiolaris
  • Helianthus couplandii B.Boivin
  • Helianthus integrifolius Nutt.
  • Helianthus patens Lehm.
  • Helianthus canescens (A.Gray) S.Watson, syn of var. canescens
  • Helianthus canus (Britton) Wooton & Standl., syn of var. canescens
PLANTS Profile

Helianthus petiolaris is a North American plant species in the sunflower family, commonly known as the prairie sunflower[2] or lesser sunflower.[3] Naturalist and botanist Thomas Nuttall was the first to describe the prairie sunflower in 1821.[4][5] The word petiolaris in Latin means, “having a petiole”.[6] The species originated in Western United States, but has since expanded east. The prairie sunflower is sometimes considered a weed.[citation needed]


H. petiolaris originated in the dry prairies of Minnesota, Oregon, Texas, the Dakotas, California, and other states in Western and Central United States. It has since expanded its distribution to throughout the Eastern United States and into central and western Canada. It is now the most widely distributed species of sunflower besides H. annuus.[7]

Habitat and ecology[edit]

Prairie sunflowers are commonly found growing in sandy areas. They can also be found in heavy clay soil and in dry prairies. They are unable to grow in shady areas; they need to be in direct sunlight. Prairie sunflowers require dry to moist soil. This species of sunflower is an annual flower, blooming between June and September.[7]


Individuals of this species occur as shrubs and also as taprooted annuals. They can grow up to 4 ft (120 cm) tall. The leaves appear alternate and the flowers have a close resemblance to the traditional sunflower. The flowers are hermaphrodites, which means the flowers contain both male and female parts.[8] The stem of the flower is erect and hairy. The leaves on the shrub are alternate, have a lanceolate shape, are rough in texture, are bluish-green in color, and have a length between 2 and 5 in.[2][9]


Prairie Sunflower

H. petiolaris has flower heads reminiscent of those of a common sunflower, H. annuus. The fruits of the flowers are known as achenes. The flower head contains 10-30 yellow ray florets, surrounding 50-100 dark red-brown disc florets, and green, lanceolate phyllaries (bracts).[10] The center of the flower has hints of white due to the presence of white hairs on the chaff. The flowers attract butterflies and bees for pollination.[2][9]


The seeds in the plant are edible and can be ground up into an oily meal or into a butter.[11]


Powdered leaves of the prairie sunflower are said to work well with the healing of sores and swellings.[8]



  1. ^ a b The Plant List, Helianthus petiolaris Nutt.
  2. ^ a b c d Flora of North America, Helianthus petiolaris Nuttall, 1821. Prairie sunflower
  3. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  4. ^ Nuttall, Thomas 1821. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 2(1): 115–116 diagnosis in Latin, description and commentary in English
  5. ^ "Plains Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris)". Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  6. ^ "Prairie Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris)". 
  7. ^ a b Biota of North America Program 2014 county distribution map
  8. ^ a b "Plants For a Future". Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Heiser, Charles (1976). The Sunflower. University of Oklahoma Press. 
  10. ^ Kinsey, Beth. "Heliathus petiolaris- Prairie Sunflower". Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "Helianthus petiolaris". Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Tropicos specimen listing for Helianthus petiolaris var. canescens A. Gray