One thing we love to do at the Seed Library is cultivate the web. Although I haven't got around to it yet, I hope to create a resource page to help other gardeners and farmers use the web as a gardening resource. Here is just one instance of how much info you can find out about a plant if you know the right place to go. I've edited this down but if you want to read it all, just click on the link.
Helianthus maximiliani Schrad.
Contributed by: USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center
D.D. Horn. 2004.
TENN-University of Tennessee
Helianthus dalyi, Helianthus maximilianii, Maximillian sunflower, Maximilian's sunflower, Michaelmas-daisy.
Erosion control: Maximilian sunflower has a perennial root crown and rhizomatous root system. Annual stems are produced from underground stems. This growth pattern allows Maximilian sunflower to spread and form dense plant clusters, reinforcing soil and preventing erosion.
Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used parts of this plant as sources of food, oil, dye, and thread. Pioneers planted Maximilian sunflowers near their homes to repel mosquitoes and used the blossoms in bathwater to relieve arthritis pain. Sunflower seeds are eaten as snack items and sprinkled on salads and other foods.
Industrial products: The natural rubber present in Maximilian sunflower qualifies the plant as a potential source of industrial raw materials.
Ornamental: The bright yellow flowers of Maximilian sunflower make it a popular choice for use in native gardens. It can be utilized as a hedge or natural screen because of its height.
Restoration: Maximilian sunflower is used as a conservation planting for habitat development, prairie restoration and landscaping, and range and pasture maintenance. It can be used in filterstrip plantings. It has been used with native grasses in Kansas to revegetate coalmine spoils.
Wildlife: Butterflies, beetles, and long- and short-tongued bees consume the nectar or pollen produced the flowers of Maximilian sunflower. Butterfly caterpillars feed on the foliage while moth caterpillars bore through the stems. Upland game birds, small non-game birds, and some waterfowl consume its seeds. Rabbits and groundhogs feed on young plants while elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and pronghorn antelope browse and graze older plants. It has poor nutritional value for these species. Habitat and cover are provided to birds and small mammals by individual plant clusters and dense colonies formed with other shrub-like plants.
General: Aster Family (Asteraceae). This native perennial has a stout, rhizomatous root system. It grows from 0.9 m to 2.5 m tall with stems occurring singly or in clusters. The central stem is stout, light green to light red, and covered with short, dense white hairs. Leaves are alternate, up to 30 cm long and 5 cm wide, sessile, narrowly lance-shaped, and folded upward from the central vein. Leaf surfaces are covered with white hairs; margins are smooth or loosely toothed. Short inflorescence stalks emerge from the leaf axils, bearing one composite flower head and one to two leaves. Each inflorescence has two pale green bracts at its base, is 5 to 7 cm in diameter, and has 20 to 40 yellow ray flowers and many yellow disc flowers. Flowering occurs in September and early October. Fruits are achenes that ripen in October and November and are wind or animal dispersed.
The USDA hardiness zones for Maximilian sunflower are 3 to 9. Although it can grow in a variety of conditions, it prefers moist clay-like soils, soil depths of 50 cm or more, 250 to 1,270 mm annual precipitation, gentle slopes, and full sun. Soil, moisture, and topography can be variable, but Maximilian sunflower will not tolerate shade. It tends to grow very tall in moist rich soil and may become top-heavy when in bloom. Growth is poor on gravel, dense clay, or saline soils.
Maximilian sunflower plants are allelopathic. They produce chemicals that hinder the growth of neighboring plants. These chemicals are not harmful to livestock and wildlife.
Sarah Wennerberg, formerly USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Mark Skinner, USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
For more information about this and other plants, please contact your local NRCS field office or Conservation District, and visit the PLANTS Web site or the Plant Materials Program Web site