The Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum, is in the spotlight today as it is blooming across Pottawattamie County and throughout the Midwest. This prairie plant is a native perennial that can grow 3 to 8 feet tall! It can be seen in remnant & reclaimed prairies throughout Pottawattamie County & blooms early July through early August. It is a part of the Asteraceae, or sunflower family with bright yellow ray florets surrounding smaller, yellow disc florets.
The Compass Plant gets its unique name from its leaves, its large, deeply lobed leaves orient themselves in a north to south direction in order to avoid the strong rays of the midday sun. While these sandpaper-like leaves usually give a good approximation of compass points they don’t always orient themselves with absolute accuracy but they are close enough to ensure this unique plant deserves its name.
This plant is known for more than just its directional leaves, small mammals and birds eat the seeds produced by the Compass Plant while its flowers attract butterflies, bees, and other insects. The Compass Plant can be grazed by livestock and is favored in its juvenile state, & the sap has been used as a chewing gum.
Featured Photo: Frank Mayfield / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)Next Blog
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