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What Time is it in Nature: Narrow-leaf Sunflower

October 17, 2012

Narrow-leaf Sunflowers (sometimes known as Swamp Sunflowers or Helianthus angustifolius) are among the most vibrant wildflowers at Prairie Ridge as we make the transition into fall.  You’ll currently find vast swaths of these bright yellow flowers across the prairie.  You can’t miss them!

Narrow-leaf Sunflower

Narrow-leaf Sunflowers are composite flowers in the aster family.  As their name suggests, they have distinctive thin, narrow leaves along their stems.  The leaves are typically less than 1/2 inch across with smooth edges and a rough feel.  The flowers are typical composite flowers with reddish-brown disc flowers in the center of the bloom surrounded by narrow, bright yellow ray flowers (what most people consider the “petals” of these flowers).  Each plant can grow to be quite large, 2-6 feet tall, and may have dozens of flowers.

Narrow-leaf Sunflowers are popular garden plants because they are able to survive in a wide variety of habitats, including very wet soils.  They are a great bog garden plant, but they can also survive in dry, salty soils if they are watered during dry periods.  They are also tolerant of full sun conditions.  However, the plants spread using rhizomes and can become weedy when ample water and sun are available.

Deer tend to avoid Narrow-leaf Sunflowers, but they are visited by a wide variety of pollinators.  Butterflies, bees, and flies make heavy use of the pollen produced by the disc flowers.  The flowers also attract several species of birds.  Because they remain in flower through the fall, they are important late blooming flowers for the remaining pollinators in the area.

You can find Narrow-leaf Sunflowers in the prairie and around the pond at Prairie Ridge.  They’ll be in bloom throughout most of October and into the beginning of November, so come on out and see our great fall flowers!

What Time is it in Nature is a weekly feature highlighting the current plants, animals, and other wildlife at the Musuem’s public outdoor facility, Prairie Ridge Ecostation. Find out more about the natural happenings at Prairie Ridge at our What Time is it in Nature Archive!

(Photos by Chris Goforth)

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