Hairy sunflower, also known as rough sunflower, bristly sunflower, or stiff-haired sunflower, is a plant of abundance, providing both food and habitat for a variety of wildlife. As its name suggests, both the stem and leaves are covered with dense hairs. Each plant produces up to seven flower heads from August to October. Both the ray and disk flowers are a cheery yellow.
Found in fields, grasslands, woodland edges, and disturbed areas, such as roadsides, it spreads somewhat aggressively through self-seeding and rhizomes, making it useful for stabilizing soil and filling large areas.
Grows 2-5’ tall.
Can be sited in part to full sun.
Plant in medium to dry soil – its deep tap root makes it drought tolerant.
The flowers attract many varieties of bees, wasps, butterflies and skippers. A keystone plant, members of the Helianthus group host 76 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including the giant leopard moth, Isabella tiger moth, painted lady butterfly, and 12 specialist species that can only feed on Helianthus. Like other sunflowers, hairy sunflower provides late-season nectar for butterflies that are migrating or laying the last of their eggs for the season. Hairy sunflower also supports several varieties of native bees--such as the specialist sunflower leafcutting bee that requires Helianthus pollen to feed its larvae.
Leave intact plants in place until spring and watch for the visitors! Birds and mammals feast on the seed heads, and a variety of mammals eat the leaves and rhizomes. Hollow stems provide habitat for overwintering bees and a place for stem-boring insects to lay their eggs. Numerous species of wildlife will find the sturdy stems and dried leaves to be excellent ground cover.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Tender leaf petioles, seeds, and flowers are edible and are used as an expectorant, diuretic and astringent. Tea made from the leaves is reputed to help to reduce fever, and when made into a poultice, can be applied to sores, bug bites, and swellings.
Oil from the pressed seeds are high in vitamin E.
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