Monday, June 7, 2021

Southeastern Sunflower - Helianthus agrestis


Southeastern sunflower (Helianthus agrestis) is found in moist to wet soil habitats throughout much of peninsular Florida except the most southerly counties. It is a near endemic with only one collection made historically (1904) near Thomasville, Georgia - near the Florida border. This is an annual species, generating from seed each spring before reaching a mature height of about 6 feet in the summer.  

Most sunflowers require sunny, open habitats and this is not an exception to that. Unlike many, however, it does not sucker, but needs to be able to reseed each year in moist mucky soils. Growth in the spring is rapid. The plant photographed above had reached blooming size by early June. The leaves are lanceolate with slightly serrate edges. Each leaf is about 1/2 inch wide - wider than the more-common narrow-leaved sunflower (H. angustifolia) and brighter green in color. The stems are smooth and each plant may produce several from the basal cluster.

The flower heads are several inches across with the bright yellow ray petals being about 1/2 inch across. Like all members of this genus, they attract the attention of a great many pollinators. The seeds are important to songbirds as well. Because of its annual nature, southeastern sunflower is rarely offered by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. If you find one, make sure that you collect seed from your plants before the birds find it and sow them when ripe in a good potting mix for eventual transplanting. I have recently planted this at a project I am directing in Pasco County and will do this myself. It is my hope that if I get a sufficient number of plants that they will reseed themselves naturally. Time will tell.

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