Helianthus pauciflorus (Stiff Sunflower)
|Also known as:||Prairie Sunflower, Few-leaved Sunflower|
|Habitat:||sun; average to dry prairies, roadsides, along railroads|
|Bloom season:||July - September|
|Plant height:||2 to 6 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||none|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
Yellow sunflower 2 to 3½ inches across with 10 to 25 rays (petals). The center disk is usually purplish brown, sometimes yellow. When the weather is especially dry the petals fold up lengthwise or become twisted.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are 2 to 10 inches long and ¾ to 2¼ inches wide, typically shaped like the tip of a spear, with a very rough texture and short-stalked to stalkless. A pair of prominent lower veins run parallel to the center vein. The leaf edges have shallow, widely spaced teeth and short hairs. Color is dull gray-green, almost olive. Attachment is opposite and most leaves are in the lower part of the plant, but there may be small oval or lance-linear leaves widely spaced above the midpoint, which may be alternately attached. The stem is bristly and turns reddish brown with age.
The center disk forms a head of dry seed, each nearly ¼ inch long and without a tuft of hairs but with 2 bristly scales at the tip.
Stiff Sunflower, formerly known by synonym Helianthus rigidus, is distinguished from other Minnesota native sunflowers by its mostly opposite, nearly stalkless, gray-green leaves, most of which are below the midpoint of the plant, plus flowers with a (usually) purplish brown center disk and flattened bracts with a dull point at the tip. It is one of the first sunflowers to bloom in summer. There are 2 recognized subspecies, both of which have widely overlapping ranges and both of which are found in Minnesota: subsp. pauciflorus, 2½ to 6 feet tall, which has leaves up to 10 inches long and usually has alternate stem leaves above the midpoint that have a long taper to a pointed tip, and subsp. subrhomboideus, 2 to 4 feet tall, which leaves only up to 5 inches long and has opposite leaves above the midpoint.
Please visit our sponsors
Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County, and Hastings Sand Coulee SNA, Dakota County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Sherburne County, and Chippewa Prairie Preserve, Swift County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?