Helianthus annuus (Common Sunflower)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual
Habitat:sun; disturbed soil, roadsides, fields, waste areas
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:3 to 7 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals

[photo of flowers] Single daisy-like flower at the end of a branching stem. Flowers are 3 to 6 inches across with 17 to 40 yellow rays (petals). The center disk is larger than most sunflowers, rarely less than 1¼ inches across, the disk flowers dark reddish brown to yellow, with yellow styles.

[photo of bracts] The bracts behind the flower are in 2 or 3 layers, generally oval with a long abruptly tapered tip, and short stiff hairs around the edges. A plant typically has 1 to 12 flowers

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 4 to 16 inches long, 2 to 8 inches wide, egg to heart-shaped to triangular with rounded angles at the base, rough-textured on both surfaces, usually toothed edges that may be a bit wavy, 3 primary veins radiating from the base, and a stalk ¾ to 8 inches long. Attachment is mostly alternate but sometimes opposite in the lowest leaves. The main stem is quite stout and covered to varying degrees in stiff hairs.


Common Sunflower is present in all 50 states, though only native to the lower 48, and is the plant from which many cultivated sunflowers were derived. I have mostly seen it in full sun along roadsides and construction sites, where the soil is heavily disturbed and usually dry. Common Sunflower has been labeled a noxious weedy species in some agricultural areas but modern herbicides have taken care of that. Overall it resembles Prairie Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris) which has leaves and a center disk that are proportionately much smaller.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land
  • Landscape Alternatives
  • ReWild Native Gardens
  • Out Back Nursery
  • Shop for native seeds and plants at PrairieMoon.com!

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Christian Anderson - Alexandria
on: 2022-07-29 22:16:50

This appeared in our yard and we have never had it before. It's beautiful.

Posted by: Andy - Minneapolis
on: 2024-07-11 06:40:14

Two of these plants volunteered in a full sun area of my yard among some little bluestem I planted 3 years ago. It's about 5' tall right now. No bloom yet, but its developing flower/seed head follows the sun as sunflowers do. Surprised and pleased to see this large native flower volunteer. My yard is directly under the pre-1975 dot at the far east edge of Hennepin County--as seen in the above distribution map.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.