Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed)

Plant Info
Also known as: Common Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Swamp Sunflower
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; moist fields, swamps, along shores
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching clusters of up to 100 stalked flowers at the top of the plant. Flowers are 1 to 2 inches across with 10 to 15 bright yellow petals (ray flowers), each with 3 shallow lobes at the tip. The large center disk is globular, ¾ to 1-inch in diameter, yellow to brownish.

[photo of bracts] Surrounding the base of the flower is a single layer of long, narrow bracts that are fused at the base. Flower stalks are finely hairy and slightly swollen at the base of the flower.

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

[photo of leaves and winged stem] Basal leaves are variably shaped and wither away by flowering time. Stem leaves are 3 to 6 inches long, ½ to 1 inch wide, widest above the middle, pointed at the tip, with irregular, widely spaced teeth and no leaf stalk. Surfaces are usually finely hairy, especially along major veins on the underside. The base of the leaf extends down the stem, creating a “wing” that extends down to the next leaf and beyond. Stems are erect to ascending, branched in the upper plant, and variously hairy, more sparsely so in the lower plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit in winter] The center disk becomes a round head of dry, brown seed that persists through winter. Seeds are finely hairy but lack a tuft of hairs at the tip.


The bulbous center flower disk and winged stems make this easy to identify. Sneezeweed is widespread in the nursery trade with several cultivars, the flower colors ranging from yellow to orange to deep red, as well as compact forms.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Anoka County.


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

Posted by: Alison - St. Paul, MN
on: 2010-07-07 11:45:51

Sneezeweed can be found at Lilydale Regional Park in Saint Paul, MN.

Posted by: Dan - Maplewood
on: 2012-06-23 11:24:13

I have this growing in the raingarden in my front yard, and it is now about 7 feet tall. It forms a nice barrier between our yard and the street.

Posted by: Dennis - South Haven
on: 2014-02-14 12:59:42

Master Gardener Stearns County

Posted by: Jonathan - Edina
on: 2014-09-16 12:33:54

Tall, thriving, in full bloom in the wet meadow at base of my prairie planting.

Posted by: Tim - Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County
on: 2016-08-21 18:58:49

Common along Mississippi River banks in Brooklyn Park's River Park.

Posted by: Susan - Goodhue county
on: 2017-10-06 20:19:07

The Canon Valley River Trail, has a lot of sneeze weed, very tall, lots of beautiful plants along the trail, including Virgins Bower, we only see it while it's in seed, quite lovely though.

Posted by: ptb - Bemidji
on: 2018-08-28 22:22:18

In 2006 we planted this along with many other natives as part of our lakeshore restoration. It has taken over about half of the space, which measures approximately 80' x 90'.

Posted by: Amanda Heuring - Springbook Nature Center, FRIDLEY
on: 2018-09-04 10:11:16

This is a really cool plant and its seeds are cool too. We studied it this plant on our nature walk for homeschool. There is a group of it at the Springbrook Nature Center parking lot.

Posted by: Susan Stanich - along the st. louis river, Duluth
on: 2020-08-23 19:11:58

Thriving in unmowed moist areas of Chambers Grove city park, Hwys 210 and 23. With bulrush and boneset.

Posted by: luciearl - Lake Shore
on: 2020-09-03 12:28:17

This came up in my shoreline buffer for the first time this year. I'm especially pleased to find several tri-colored bumblebees enjoying it!

Posted by: Arleen Hollenhorst - Near the Jeffers Petroglyphs
on: 2021-05-06 15:32:37

I've seen this growing along the paths of the area around the Jeffers Petroglyphs. (central MN)

Posted by: V Barnes - Eagan
on: 2022-09-03 08:36:07

In Thomas Lake Park, Eagan in parking lot plantings near sign for the picnic shelter. Also in MN Valley NWR Long Meadow Lake paved path from the old RR bridge. Blooms mid August apparently.

Posted by: Joseph Capecchi - Kanebec County
on: 2022-09-03 15:41:55

On the shore of Knife Lake in Kanebec County

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