Edge of the Prairiethe sand prairies and savannas of the Chicago region

    Helianthus occidentalis
    Western sunflower

Western sunflower is one of the most characteristic perennial forbs of Indiana's sand prairies. Some of the numerous native sunflowers are difficult to distinguish from one another, but this one is easy. The basal rosette of leaves, and the more or less leafless flowering stalk rising two to four feet above the surface are unmistakable.

Helianthus occidentalis

This sunflower is most common in xeric localities; associates include spring flowering forbs such as Lupinus perennis and Viola pedata, summer flowering forbs, especially Opuntia humifosa and Lithospermum croceum. It blooms in late summer, in pure stands or mixed with Liatris aspera. The most common grass in this assemblage is little bluestem.

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Landscape view of a large colony of western sunflowers; Lena Park, Starke County Indiana. [127k]

Western sunflowers, a closer view. [147k]

Large view of Helianthus occidentalis colony early in their blooming season, about the beginning of August. [212k]

All photographs by Marty Lucas and © Becknell and Lucas Media, Ltd. Students may freely use these images in school reports not for publication without requesting permission. Others, please request permission by writing e-mail to Marty Lucas. Requests for uses aiding in the understanding and appreciation of prairies and native plants are routinely granted. Higher resolution photographs (sans copyright notice) suitable for printing are available for purchase.


Helianthus occidentalis entry in Cochrane and Iltis' Atlas of Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Flora.

Helianthus occidentalis entry in Cochrane and Iltis' Atlas of Wisconsin Prairie and Savanna Flora.

McDowell's Sunflower documents the relationship of this species to Silas McDowell, who found the plant on Whiteside Mountain in North Carolina.



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