Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Silphium
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:short-lived perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist; prairies, along shores, wetlands
Bloom season:July - September
Plant height:3 to 8 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FAC MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
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 Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] 10 to 30 stalked flowers at the tip of the branching stems and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are 2½ to 3½ 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 is green until the disk flowers bloom; disk flowers are sterile, yellow, tubular with 5 triangular lobes and a column of brown stamens with long, stringy style-like yellow tips. Bracts are in 2 or 3 layers, the outer bracts broadly egg-shaped with pointed, flaring tips, the inner bracts smaller and subtending the ray flowers. Flower stalks and bracts are smooth to rough.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Basal and lowest stem leaves drop off early, withered away by flowering time. Stem leaves are very large, to 10 inches long and 6 inches wide, opposite pairs joined together at the stem (perfoliate), forming a cup (hence the name). Leaves are coarsely toothed, pointed at the tip, and feel rough. Lowest leaves narrow at the base to a broadly winged stalk.

[photo of stem] Stems are erect, unbranched except in the flowers, stout, square, mostly smooth, and often a reddish color.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The persistent sepals spread out as fruit matures, the entire head drying to brown. Fruit is a winged seed that forms from the ray flowers on the outer ring of the disk.

Notes:

The perfoliate leaves and stout, square stem make Cup Plant easy to identify. It can create colonies from short, fibrous rhizomes and has become invasive in New England where it's been introduced. Cup Plant is a magnet for red aphids, which can be found in masses on the undersides of leaves, and subsequently become lodging for parasitic wasps and food for predatory insects as well as baby hummingbirds. No insecticide required! There are 2 recognized varieties: var. connatum, which has variously hairy stems and is only known from a few Mid-Atlantic states in the New River Valley, and var. perfoliatum, present in much of the central US, including Minnesota.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Hennepin counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County and in a private garden in Lino Lakes.

Comments

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

Posted by: Hayward - Owatonna
on: 2009-07-18 21:59:41

We have lived here for 20 years, and this is the first time I have seen this flower. There are four plants growing in our marsh.

Posted by: Mark - Oakdale Nature Preserve, Oakdale MN
on: 2010-07-24 16:44:51

One single plant!

Posted by: Jay - Minnehaha Creek, South Minneapolis-East Side
on: 2011-09-13 11:48:14

This species has been planted in the reconstructed riparian wetland along Minnehaha Creek between Nokomis Avenue and 33rd Avenue. Many other species to see there as well.

Posted by: Steve - Lost Valley SNA Washington County
on: 2012-07-13 09:05:46

Found this plant for the first time at the site. Three plants are growing on bottomland restored prairie. Plant is not blooming yet but the leaves are so distinctive I feel safe with the ID.

Posted by: kit - St. Paul, show of Como Lake
on: 2012-11-02 11:44:54

East shore, lakeside of walking path, walking north just past the intersection of Maryland, Victoria and Como. Here it is November 2nd and I've finally identified them. They were beautiful in late summer.

Posted by: Brett - Maple Grove
on: 2014-01-24 21:11:01

Took pictures of these in full bloom 8-10-2013 along the path just NE of the Elm Creek Park Reserve nature building. Many walking trails there, as well as a nice restored prairie with a pretty diverse group of native flowers and grass. They did a burn here in/close to May 2012...wasn't there at the time but took pics shortly after.

Posted by: Merry - Rochester
on: 2014-07-31 21:24:57

Grows in clusters along the Douglas Trail especially just south of the town of Douglas. Fun to see birds drinking from the pools in the leaves after a rain.

Posted by: Kathy - Saint Paul, East Side
on: 2015-05-08 20:45:07

I bought a few plants at the Friends Plant Sale some years ago. They grow everywhere in my city yard! Even up from the cracks in the patio! And yes, I see lots of those gross aphids, but I have noticed some birds plucking them off for a juicy snack. These plants attract numerous pollinators.

Posted by: Dawn - Cromwell
on: 2015-09-09 08:52:23

I bought a plant at a greenhouse near Barnum several years ago. So far I haven't had problems with it being invasive. They grow about 10 feet tall and boom profusely. I had never seen them elsewhere.

Posted by: Linda - St. Paul northeast suburb
on: 2016-06-18 11:41:46

I bought one plant at a Master Gardener sale a couple years ago because I wanted native plants with some height. Bloomed last year and now mid-June is about five feet tall and there seem to be two of them (or stalk has split). Very robust looking, but my garden is small so I will have to keep spread to a minimum.

Posted by: Linda - Maplewood near North St. Paul
on: 2016-07-28 23:49:35

I bought one of these at the Ramsey County Master Gardener sale a couple years ago. It bloomed last year and this year it has split into 2 and it is about 7 feet tall with multiple blooms. It is really pretty and full but I won't be able to let it spread much more. Impressive plant!

Posted by: dale - just west of Alexandria
on: 2016-08-17 14:21:21

Found these plants in my CRP and had hard time finding out what they are. One plant is about 7 feet tall with maybe 8 stems. Glad to see that it is not a bad plant.

Posted by: Scott - Minneapolis and Suburbs
on: 2016-09-17 23:38:59

We have multiple properties in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park and have been growing them for a decade. Yes, invasive... read, doesn't require a lot of care! (Yay!) We have several stands of up to 50 feet long and 8 feet wide. Noticed they were planted in Mound along the Dakota Trail where it meets Lost Lake. Quite amazing in the flowering season... but unfortunately some people think they are weeds before that! Not at all tolerant of being transplanted... has to be a very small plant, lots of soil, kept moist. Trying now to get the big brother the Compass Plant to grow, have heard that can get to 10 feet tall! But it has been very slow, years to get to five feet.

Posted by: Dawn - Rice
on: 2017-06-09 21:27:50

Bought this from a friend several years ago. Beautiful! Drought tolerant, thrived in Sandy soil. Sold my home, looking for plants now for my new garden.

Posted by: Julie - North of Moorhead
on: 2017-07-19 10:01:37

I have many cup plants. IF they are transplanted during the summer they will limp along but will still come back the next spring and be beautiful. If transplanted in the spring they will look healthy, but may not bloom much the first year. Drought tolerant, and very eye catching. I get lots of "WOW's ! I am willing to share - just come and get them.

Posted by: Pat - McLeod County
on: 2017-07-30 18:12:01

Looking for a source for this plant.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-30 20:05:19

Pat, see "where to buy native seeds and plants" - it's on most pages of the website. If none of those vendors carry it perhaps one knows who does.

Posted by: Barb - near Ponsford, MN
on: 2017-08-15 16:08:14

My friend has these growing near her garage in the Bad Medicine Lake area. They are beautiful and as tall as the garage.

Posted by: Teresa - Otter Tail County
on: 2017-09-03 13:01:04

I have several areas of the plants and some just pop up everywhere. There must be over 30 monarchs on the flowers today and just amazing to watch. It is like this most years.

Posted by: Jerry B - Hutchinson
on: 2017-11-12 21:39:37

I collected seed north of Hutchinson and it grows very well, infact I do not let the seeds mature because they self seed very readily. Mine grows to about 7 feet.

Posted by: Paul Nelson - St. Paul
on: 2018-08-15 17:05:06

At the pollinator gardens at the West Minnehaha Rec Center, St. Paul, we have more than 50 cup plants flourishing.

Posted by: Matthew Schultz - Rosemount
on: 2019-05-21 11:01:43

I have been using a group of these plants almost as a hedge around my garden. They get 10' tall each year and bring in many pollinators. And are beautiful. I have actually been looking at ways to create long hedges with them.

Posted by: Julie - Champlin
on: 2019-06-12 05:48:04

I accidentally ordered a whole flat of cup plants. I only wanted 2 for my new rain garden. I planted 5 in a row at the back of the garden. It sounds like they are quite pretty and I’m glad to read that they exist at Elm Creek which is nearby. Not thrilled about the red aphids but since I planted hummingbird plants, maybe birds will take care of them?

Posted by: Carol - Osseo
on: 2019-09-11 14:49:54

I had gotten one of these plants from a guy several years ago, but he didn't know what it was called. I just searched now to find out what it was and found this site. It is a focal point in my perennial bed and it is spreading. I have yet to notice any aphids, but if they have been there, I haven't seen them. I do have lots of birds, so perhaps that's why. I am excited to know this is a native wildflower for Minnesota. Several folks speculated it was a weed.

Posted by: Marsha - Eastern
on: 2020-03-19 22:32:17

I had this in my CRP planting 20 years ago. It is now invasive. Ugly and overwhelming. Mine grows over 12 feet tall, soaks you to the bone to mow out, overtakes all other wildflowers and grasses. Even invades in shrub and tree rows. DONT PLANT this "flower" weed- even the dandelions are better than this! It has ruined my prairie grass plantings and impossible to ever fully get rid of.

Posted by: Paul henjum - Apple Valley
on: 2020-03-23 03:24:22

One of the taller herbaceous perennials, growing from 8 to 12 feet tall, depending on how much rain we get each year. Long-lived plants forming multi-stemmed clumps that do not spread. Does self-seed. The upright stems produce many flowers in mid to late summer that are loved by Monarch Butterflies, and the back yard some years have up to 50 monarchs on these plants. A valuable food source for them during an early migration south. The seeds are loved by Gold Finches and every year I have 10 or 20 of them that spend about two weeks in the back yard eating the seeds. The thick square stems persist and with 20 or so plants they are some work to clean up. Grows well in part shade to full sun. Never had any insect problems.

Posted by: Michelle - Saint Paul
on: 2020-06-07 03:06:58

This plant grows along fencing in my yard and provides 6-8 ft tall natural privacy wall that birds love year round

Posted by: Janene Roessler - Root River State Trail in Fillmore County
on: 2020-07-17 06:57:56

These are just beginning to bloom near Isinours, along the bike trail.

Posted by: Mary Allen - Austin
on: 2020-09-11 18:45:32

I purchased a single little plant a few years ago at a Master Gardeners sale.I planted it by the electric ground to the house so I would stop trying to dig it up! Mine have very dark green large leaves and grow very tall. I had a flattened flower spade next to the ground to tie them to. They pulled the shovel over so I just replaced it with a 6' T-post as they now are over 9' tall and numerous. They seed the flower bed easily. This year I shared many plants with others. I made sure that looked at the pictures to know what to expect! While visiting the National Eagle Center, I noticed a similar plant. It is identified as a cup plant. It is shorter in height, leaves are lighter colored, and smaller leaves and flowers. I thought out could be a lighting difference. Mine is in full sun while theirs are shaded by the building. Did the "google" thing. There seemed to be only one variety until I reached this site!

Posted by: Kerrie Burns - In Duluth along the Superior Hiking Trail
on: 2020-09-14 11:55:32

I see that this is not supposed to be this far north, but I am pretty confidant that's what this is. It was a pretty large bunch of it.

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