Asteraceae (Sunflower family) Federally Endangered
Description: Upright perennial herb usually 3-6 ft. tall but can reach heights of 10 ft. Lance-shaped leaves opposite on lower stem, changing to alternate above, gradually reduced upwards, rough like sandpaper on upper surface, velvety smooth on lower surface. Flower heads less than 2 in. across with yellow ray and disk flowers. Fruit a dark brown nutlet. Flowers late Aug.-Sept.
Habitat/range: Glades in xeric hardpan forests, mowed power line corridors, roadsides, and field margins. Rare. Restricted to piedmont of North Carolina and South Carolina, mostly within 60 miles of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Taxonomy: A genus of 52 species of North America, including about 26 species in the mountains and piedmont.
Ecology: Like most sunflowers, Schweinitz's sunflower requires full to partial sunlight to grow, reproduce, and persist. Historically, it probably occurred in piedmont woodlands (open-canopy forests)
and prairies that were kept open by periodic fires caused by lightning and Native Americans. By the early twentieth century, widespread fire suppression dramatically reduced the frequency of wildland fires and the amount of open forest, a habitat Schweinitz's sunflower and other sun-loving plants require. Today's remaining populations persist in marginal sites, including power line right-of-ways and roadsides where periodic bush hogging maintains a suitable habitat. Schweinitz's sunflower was designated a federally endangered species in 1991; fewer than 20 populations are now known, most of which are small and vulnerable to extirpation. In addition to fire suppression, current threats are development, mining, encroachment by invasive plants, highway construction, and roadside and utility right-of-way maintenance, including the use of herbicides.
Wildlife: Grazing by native herbivores, including buffalo and elk, and periodic fires historically played an important role in maintaining the open habitat required by this species.
Helianthus strumosus L.
Asteraceae (Sunflower family)
Description: Herbaceous perennial 3-9 ft. tall with smooth, bluish green stems, leaves mostly opposite, lanceolate to ovate, 3-6 in. long with a rough upper surface, hence the common name. Flower heads with yellow disk and ray flowers, the latter 1-2 in. long. Fruit an achene. Flowers late July-Sept.
Habitat/range: Woods, forest edges, fields, and roadsides. Common. Widespread in eastern United States.
Taxonomy: The genus name Helian-thus comes from 2 Greek words, "helios" (sun) and "anthos" (flower). The yellow, maroon, or brown radial disks of sunflowers have been used artistically as symbols for the sun throughout the ages.
Ecology: The yellow flower heads of various sunflowers (including Solidago, Packera, and Helianthus) are a conspicuous component of roadsides, fields, and forest margins in late summer and early fall. The flowers of roughleaf sunflower (and various other plants) track the sun across the sky, facing east in the morning, and west as the sun sets at the end of the day. By tracking the sun, the surface temperature of the flower head is slightly elevated, which helps lure pollinating insects. The large, showy ray flowers help attract pollinators visually as well; experiments have shown that removing the ray flowers decreases insect visitation rates and seed set.
Wildlife: White-tailed deer commonly forage the flower heads and fresh foliage, various insects visit the flowers for nectar, pollen, or both, and songbirds consume the seeds. Silvery crescentspot butterflies use Helianthus species as a larval host plant.
Uses: Native Americans used the seeds of various sunflowers to make flour for bread and oil for cooking. Tolerant of both heat and dry conditions, sunflowers provide a splash of color in woodland gardens from summer through fall.
Helonias bullata L.
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