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Native Wildflowers of the North Dakota Grasslands

JPG -- species photo

False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)

In North Dakota, only the counties east of a line from Rolette to Sargent are home to the false sunflower. Elsewhere, the plant occurs from Quebec to Georgia and west to British Columbia and New Mexico, at elevations up to 7,000 ft. The plant is also sometimes called "ox-eye."

False sunflower is a large perennial up to 5 feet tall that grows from a fibrous-rooted caudex or heavy rootstocks. The opposite, rough leaves are up to 4 inches long. Large, orange-yellow flower-heads up to two inches wide grow singly atop long, bare upper branches. Each flower-head has many orange disc flowers and 10-16 large yellow ray flowers. Disc flowers mature into smooth, 4-angled achenes.

Look for false sunflower in native tallgrass prairie, along old road or railroad grades, and at the edge of brushy or wooded areas. I could find no information on the effects of grazing or economic uses for this plant.

False sunflower is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). Aster means "star" in Greek, in reference to the radiate arrangement of flowers in the heads, which are often erroneously called "flowers" by laypersons. The family contains over 15,000 species, and is one of the largest families of plants in the world, and the largest in North Dakota. The family contains many useful plants.

The generic name was compounded from the Greek helios, "sun," and opsis, "appearance," from the likeness of these plants to the sunflowers. Similarly, the derivation of the specific epithet helianthoides means "like Helianthus" (the sunflower genus) in botanical Latin. False sunflower was first described for science in 1753 by the Swedish father of modern plant taxonomy Carl von Linne (Linnaeus).

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