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Sunflower, Woodland - Helianthus divaricatus

Sunflower, Woodland - Helianthus divaricatus

Helianthus divaricatus, also known as woodland sunflower, is a perennial wildflower native to Michigan. It is a common wildflower in southern Michigan along roads and in dry, open forests and forest edges, particularly with oak, pine, or aspen. It is also found in a couple of western UP counties, but this plant hybridizes naturally with native Tall Sunflower, and Michigan Flora speculates that the UP stock may be the hybrid.  This is unlikely to be a bad thing, as all of the references I have found regarding insects and birds hosting or utilizing sunflower suggest that they can use any of the native Helianthus. However, it is worth noting that our seed is from southern Michigan. 


Woodland Sunflower reaches 3 to 4 feet tall and flowers from July to August with a yellow blossom two or three inches wide. It prefers partial sun to full shade, medium to dry soil and will grow in clay, loam, rocky, or sandy soil. Spreads by rhizome, sometimes vigorously. However, individual plants are typically widely enough spaced such that other plants are able to thrive alongside. In addition, the high concentration of this plant in an area makes for great habitat for wildlife.


Native sunflowers are favorites of many kinds of bees, butterflies, moths, and other pollinators. Their leaves and stems are the food host for Checkerspots and other butterflies, as well as a variety of other insects. Some of those insects are aphids and thrips, which in turn are eaten by hummingbirds. Other birds eat the larger larva. The plants and rhizomes are eaten directly by herbivores such as deer, rabbits, and gophers. In the late season, the seeds provide high-energy food for many bird species. Protect plants from herbivores when planting. Later, when the plants start spreading, welcome the grazing as a natural way to control the patch.


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