Monday, June 7, 2021

Muck Sunflower - Helianthus simulans

 Muck sunflower (Helianthus simulans) is a perennial rhizomatous species found throughout much of north and central Florida. As its common name suggests, it occurs in wet soil habitats where it gets high sunlight. It is also found in the southern tier of states within the Southeast Coastal Plain from Louisiana to Georgia.

This species can be distinguished from other somewhat similar sunflowers by its foliage and its vigorous growth. The leaves are generally wider (up to 2 inches) than the common narrow-leaved sunflower (H. angustifolius) and they are very rough to the touch and dark green in color. Growth occurs rapidly in spring from a basal rosette. Each plant may eventually reach a mature height of 6-8 feet by summer and blooming occurs in late summer to fall. Multiple heads are produced on each stem. 

The flower heads are several inches across with dark to yellow disk flowers surrounded by a dozen or more bright yellow ray petals.  In full bloom, the weight of these flowers tends to bend the flower stem over. Like all other species in this genus, they attract a great variety of pollinators and the seeds are an important bird food in late fall to winter. The flower buds in the photo above were photographed in early June. I hope to add more photos to this post in the months ahead.

Muck sunflower is only rarely offered for sale by native plant nurseries affiliated with FANN - the Florida Association of Native Nurseries. As it requires wet soils and suckers aggressively, it is best planted along lake and pond edges with ample room to spread out. I have only recently planted a few along a lake edge in Pasco County and hope to learn more about it in the years ahead. 

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