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Autumn Sneezeweed, Common Sneezeweed, False Sunflower, Staggerwort, Yellow Star - Helenium autumnale


Family: Asteraceae - Aster family Genus Common Name: Sneezeweed Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Herb
Helenium autumnale - Autumn Sneezeweed, Common Sneezeweed, False Sunflower, Staggerwort, Yellow Star. Helenium autumnale is the most widely distributed of the eighteen North American Sneezeweeds, being found in all but three states in the U.S. - missing in Hawaii, Alaska, and New Hampshire. While it is native to the United States and much of Canada, it is naturalized in the parts of New England where it is now found. It grows in wet soils, flowering from late summer thru mid-autumn.

Sneezeweeds do not get that name from causing hay fever - the leaves were once made into a snuff that was used to cause sneezing, either expelling evil spirits or relieving congestion - pick the lore you prefer. Interestingly in large quantities all parts of the plant can be poisonous to humans.

Found in:
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY

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Helenium autumnale

Distribution of Helenium autumnale in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 30 Apr 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Botetourt County, VA Date: 2013-October-02Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
Autumn Sneezeweed has a hemispheric greenish-yellow central disc and 8 to 21 bright yellow fan-shaped ray florets, tipped with 3 shallow lobes. These ray florets will start drooping soon after the flower opens.
Helenium autumnale

Site: Botetourt County, VA Date: 2013-October-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The distinctive central disc has several hundred 5-lobed greenish-yellow florets. The disc is reminiscent of that of the Green-headed Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Helenium autumnale

Site: Botetourt County, VA Date: 2013-October-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Helenium autumnale grows up to 5 feet tall in wet soils along stream, pond, and ditch banks. It may have several branches. A plant may produce 5 to 100 or more flowers. The leaves may be toothed or entire, and may be obovate to lanceolate. Most leaves are cauline, but there are basal leaves which are withered by flowering. (A similar but quite rare species, Helenium virginicum, has basal leaves which remain while the plant is flowering.) The stem and leaves may be glabrous to moderately hairy.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Helenium autumnale

Site: Botetourt County, VA Date: 2013-October-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
As with most North American members of Helenium (H. amarum being the exception), the stems of Autumn Sneezeweed have wings, the continuation of the decurrent leaves.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Helenium autumnale

Site: Botetourt County, VA Date: 2013-October-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves are usually obovate to lanceolate, and may be glabrous or hairy.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Helenium autumnale

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer