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Sunflower, Maximilian - Helianthus maximiliani

Sunflower, Maximilian - Helianthus maximiliani

Helianthus maximiliani, or Maximilian sunflower, is likely a Great Plains species that was naturalized west and east of its original range, including the UP.  Michigan Flora says it is likely adventive (introduced) from more western states.  But, it is found throughout Michigan and has been observed in the UP since at least the late 1800s, and even MI Flora says the native range is uncertain. The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) and several other sources list it as native to Michigan.  It is more certainly native in Minnesota, and is naturalized in the UP, so we consider "regional native" as the worst-case scenario.  I have gone back and forth about whether to continue to offer this plant. "Regional native" is usually not good enough for us. But it is UP genotype seed. Is it worse for us to offer this plant than one that is only found in the southernmost counties of Michigan grown from southern Michigan seed? We don't include this sunflower in kits or bring it to plant sales, but you be the judge. This showy plant is beloved by generalist pollinators and birds, as well as people. Its seeds are larger than most native sunflowers and it is among the most attractive. If you would like it for your garden, we have some. If you are going for straight Michigan native plants, select one of our other native Michigan sunflowers.   


Growing up to 8 feet tall, it prefers full sun and well drained soil; under these ideal conditions it spreads vigorously.  The cascade of yellow flowers begins mid summer and continues until frost, supplying pollinators.  It produces black seeds utilized by birds and wildlife, and the strong stalks help it stay above the snow, making the seeds available in winter.  Best for full sun and dry soil in a large area where it can spread. Like Purple Coneflower*, its native-ness is regional, but unlike Purple Cone, it is naturalized here and we are able to produce it from UP seed.


*When we started our nursery in 2020, Michigan Flora said that Purple Coneflower was adventive and not native to Michigan. Instead, they listed Pale Purple Coneflower as native to both Michigan and the UP. Sometime in 2021 or 2022, they decided Purple Coneflower was native, and Pale Purple Coneflower was adventive. As of January, 2023, Purple Coneflower has two descriptions on the same page, one saying Native and the other Adventive, so apparently the debate continues. The point is, these determinations are subject to revision and interpretation. 

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