Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant)
|Also known as:|
|Habitat:||sun; dry to average sandy or loamy soil; prairies, glades, railroads, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||3 to 10 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Small clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the stem and arising singly or in small clusters from the upper leaf axils. Flowers are 2½ to 4 inches across with 17 to 35 yellow petals (ray flowers) that are fertile and have a split style protruding from the short tube at the base. The center disk flowers are sterile, yellow, tubular with 5 triangular lobes and a column of brown stamens with long, stringy style-like tips.
Bracts are in 2 or 3 layers, generally lance-shaped with a pointed tip that is often spreading. Bracts and flower stalks are densely covered in long, spreading, white hairs. Flower stalks are generally short on the lower stem and longer above.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are deeply divided into linear-oblong lobes, pointed at the tips, densely covered in short hairs, and the edges toothless or with a few irregular teeth or smaller lobes. Basal leaves are erect, stalked or stalkless, 1 to 2 feet long and about half as wide.
Stem leaves become smaller and shorter stalked as they ascend the stem, the uppermost leaves reduced to bracts and typically unlobed. Stems are erect, unbranched except in the flowers, stout, and densely covered in long, spreading hairs.
Fruit is a dry, flat seed that forms from the ray flowers on the outer ring of the disk.
Compass Plant is easy to distinguish from other Silphium species in Minnesota from the deeply divided leaves and densely hairy bracts and stem. The common name comes from the tendency of basal leaves to orient themselves vertically in a north-south direction to avoid the full brunt of the sun.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken at Iron Horse Prairie SNA, Dodge County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dodge County and in a private garden in Anoka County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
on: 2016-10-03 14:19:39
The City of New Hope has planted a mixture of wildflowers along Bassett Creek in Northwood Park. The compass plant is one of the plants they used. The are a perfect flower for this setting as they are very showy among the taller vegetation.
on: 2017-07-13 13:48:20
I love this time of year on the Shooting Star Trail...Compass Plant and Michigan Lily towering above other foliage...next year I will be planting a 1/4 acre prairie garden...I would appreciate tips on collecting Compass Plant seed
on: 2018-04-22 19:50:45
We planted a bag of wildflower seeds along our shed to stabilize the ground in 1999. It took 12 years before it bloomed. Now it blooms every other year. When it was first growing the deer loved the leaves, so we fenced it so it could survive. When it blooms now it reaches a height of 12 to 13 feet. We saw compass plants at PWLC in Fergus Falls & we knew then what we had. I am trying to get the seeds to grow but have not had success with this
on: 2018-09-01 19:05:51
IN the State fairgrounds, on the DNR grounds, south of the fish pond. Plants about 8-9 feet tall, in bloom during the fair.
on: 2019-06-02 06:12:49
Compass plant grows in our school garden at Chisago Lakes Middle School in Lindstrom, MN.
on: 2021-06-25 18:58:37
This plant is growing in Veterans Memorial Park in Buffalo. They are starting to bloom right now.
on: 2021-07-15 13:15:08
Compass Plant is growing in George Mitchell Park in Detroit Lakes. I have pictures of it taken 8/13/2020 in full bloom. There were 5 plants, 2 were blooming and 3 had no blooms, perhaps because they were not old enough. I am watching them this year, anxious to see how many plants are there and how many bloom in 2021. While working in SW MN, I regularly saw them on our better quality prairies but was surprised to see them in Becker County.
on: 2021-07-18 17:56:56
Never give up. I planted 6 in sphagnum pots. Deer ate them off. replanted and protected them with plastic mesh tree shelters, also expanded the grass free area around plants. Shelters melted when prairie was burned. marked with stakes Today July 18 10 years later there are 4 stalks with blooms. Deer really like this plant, and I thought they were killed