Heliopsis helianthoides (Smooth Oxeye)

Plant Info
Also known as: Common Ox-eye, False Sunflower, Sunflower Heliopsis
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; prairies, along roads, railroads, edges of woods, thickets
Bloom season:June - September
Plant height:2 to 6 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] 1 to 15 stalked flowers in a loose cluster at the top of the plant. Flowers are 1½ to 3½ inches across, with 10 to 18 pale yellow to orange-yellow petals (ray flowers) and a golden yellow to brownish cone-shaped center disk.

[photo of bract] There are 2 layers of hairy, appressed to spreading bracts surrounding the base of the flower, though it may appear to be a single row. The bracts alternate, the inner bracts short with pointed tips and the outer longer and broader, usually with rounded tips though they may be pointed. Flower stalks are green and rough-hairy.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are up to 4½ inches long and 3 inches wide, somewhat egg-shaped, tapering to a pointed tip, with coarsely toothed to serrated edges and a leaf stalk up to about 1 inch long. The color ranges from bright green to dark green. The texture is very rough and the edges can be wavy. Stems are erect, typically branched and rough from short hairs..

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

The center disk becomes a head of dark seeds that lack tufts of hair.


The easiest way to identify this plant is by the bracts: look for the alternating long and short bracts. Most references describe this plant as growing up to 5 feet tall but I've come across some closer to 6 feet tall, though that is uncommon. Smooth Oxeye is not a true sunflower. The ray flowers of true sunflowers are sterile, but are fertile in this plant. Smooth Oxeye has a long blooming period, with the first blooms appearing by mid-June and the last dying out around the end of September. It grows in dry prairie as well as moister soils at woodland or wetland edges; plants are more robust in moister conditions than dry. USDA lists 4 varieties of Heliopsis helianthoides, though only 2 are recognized by Flora of North America: var. helianthoides with smoother leaves found east of the Mississippi River, and var. scabra with rough-textured leaves found in the Midwest, including Minnesota, and west of the Mississippi.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Glacial Lakes State Park, Pope County.


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

Posted by: Bonnie - Apple Valley
on: 2012-08-30 17:35:57

Have these growing wild in my perennial garden - Summer 2012. Not sure how they seeded, but they've added some bright August color in my yard!

Posted by: Jill - Itasca County
on: 2013-08-08 06:28:27

While not reported on the USDA map to be found in Itasca County, we have seen these in the northeastern corner of the county.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2013-08-08 08:03:15

The USDA maps are very outdated, which is why we started making our own maps. Eventually we'll have them prepared for all species profiles on this web site.

Posted by: Fred S - North of Grand Rapids 12 miles
on: 2017-08-14 14:57:27

I seeded these next to cabin; they are doing well. I hope to spread them around the area.

Posted by: Janet Henning - McLeod County
on: 2018-06-16 10:00:12

Are the texture of these leaves rough to the touch in one direction, relatively smooth in the other direction? Trying to identify some plants in my "wildlife" garden.

Posted by: Renee Lee - Albert Lea and Hayward
on: 2018-07-30 16:33:02

I have these in my yard. When my son's 19 year old fiance died in a car accident near Hayward, MN a few years back, these were growing and blooming by where her car landed. I like to think that she saw them in her last moment. I dug some up and planted them by the end of my driveway. They're my "Venae flowers." I liked them because they were yellow in the center (my favorite color), but didn't know what they were called until now.

Posted by: Don Riley - Victoria, MN, in watershed area behind our home
on: 2018-08-14 20:48:40

These look like they must be what is growing behind our home. But the leaves of our plants seem to be smoother, less serrated then what I see here. I have pictures I could share.

Posted by: Mike - Bloomington
on: 2019-05-09 20:29:20

These were in a mixed seed product that I spread out in a portion of my garden. Of the plants that sprouted, these eventually dominated. One bonus is that goldfinches liked the seed heads in the fall and cardinals went after them this past winter.

Posted by: Susan Stanich - Edge of Jay Cooke State Park between Duluth and Wrenshall
on: 2019-08-06 18:53:23

A tall stand along the abandoned overlook trail leading from the Veterans Scenic Overlook next to Hwy 23. Re. the Henning 6/2018 post above: Yes, the leaves are relatively smooth to the touch going toward tip, and slightly rough going the other way.

Posted by: Charley - St. Paul
on: 2020-08-18 12:04:41

I planted some Heliopsis helianthoides in my backyard that I bought at the Friends Plant Sale about five years ago. They've done well and are fun to have. Mine always attract a lot of red-colored aphids.

Posted by: Don Larsson - Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Trail, Bloomington, MN
on: 2020-09-01 12:12:32

Abundant, along with goldenrod, around the bridge and trail that leads to the Minnesota River and the Highway 77 bridge. See yesterday, Sept. 1, 2020.

Posted by: Andy - Minneapolis
on: 2021-09-18 18:38:45

Second year growing Smooth Oxeye...propagated the 1-2 plants to 50+ via all the seeds/flowers. Little bees, big bees, various flies, false sunflower bugs--and their bright little red larvae that feed on and cover the stems, lady bugs that I suspect eat the larvae, Monarch butterflies.... This flower draws in insects like nothing else I've ever seen.

Posted by: LeAnn Plinske - The Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN
on: 2021-11-13 10:50:14

We saw this blooming Oct 14th, 2021 in either the Uhler or Coneflower Prairies at The Arboretum.

Posted by: Bill Reynolds - NW Pennington Co MN
on: 2023-06-19 10:04:39

Blooming now 19 June in ditch rightaways.

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