Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Plant of the week: Western Sunflower (Helianthus occidentalis)

Mention native sunflower to almost any urban or suburban homeowner and you are likely to get an earful of dislike, maybe even hatred.  Most of the native sunflowers are aggressive and in some cases invasive.  However, this species is the exception and is very well behaved. This species has a basal rosette up to 1 1/2' wide very hairy oval leaves attached to the plant via long stems although the lower leaves have shorter stems.  There is one central and 2-4 lateral veins in the leaves.  The up to 3" wide flowers, bright yellow in color, occur on top of 2 - 4' stems, which maybe reddish in color.  For this reason it is sometimes called the naked stem sunflower.  In totality, this species superficially resembles a miniature prairie dock.  This is a species that should be planted in full sun and it will not compete with other plants in good garden or fertile soil. It prefers well-drained sandy or rocky soils. It can't handle un-amended heavy clay soils. It will slowly creep from the rhizomes and the plant should be divided about every 3 - 5 years. The flowers are predominately pollinated by bees and a wide variety of insects will feed on the leaves.  It is a host plant for silvery checker spot and painted lady butterflies.  Birds love the seeds.  This sunflower stands out in a patch of little bluestem or broomsedge bluestem, which also serve to prop up the tallish stems of this perennial wildflower.

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