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What Time is it in Nature: Tickseed Sunflower

September 4, 2013

Thanks to the rain we’ve gotten recently, several late season flowers have started to bloom at Prairie Ridge!  The Tickseed Sunflower (Bidens artistosa) is one of the most conspicuous – and beautiful – late summer flowers of the prairie.

Tickseed sunflowers

Tickseed Sunflowers (also commonly called Bur Marigolds or Bearded Beggarticks) are flowers in the aster family.  As such, they are composite flowers made up of bright yellow ray flowers (what most people think of as “petals” on an aster) and small darker yellow or brown disc flowers clustered at the center.  The plants typically have many branches and can grow up to 5 feet tall or more.  Each plant may have several flowers at one time.  It may look like the plant has many little deep green, toothed leaves, but what you see are actually leaflets that make up a larger compound leaf.

The Tickseed Sunflower prefers moist, open habitats.  While they are considered invasive in some areas, their ability to colonize new and disturbed habitats makes them conspicuous plants in areas where other species might not be able to grow.  At this time of year, you may see big patches of Tickseed Sunflowers along roads and in ditches where they take advantage of the runoff after rains and you may hear them called “ditch daisies.”  They are also found in wet soils around wetlands or in marshes.

The bright yellow flowers of Tickseed Sunflowers are beautiful, but they also attract a wide variety of insect pollinators.  At Prairie Ridge, the flowers are regularly visited by Monarchs, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, a variety of skippers, scoliid wasps, bees, soldier beetles, and several fly and spider species.  Look for the Tickseed Sunflowers along the road to the outdoor classroom and you’re sure to see several insect species!

The Tickseed Sunflowers just started blooming, but they may remain in flower through most of October in a good year.  On your next visit to Prairie Ridge, be sure to look for these gorgeous flowers.  They’re simply brimming with life!

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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