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For Your Garden - December 2016

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Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.


  downy sunflower  (Helianthus mollis)
Photo © 2016, Joe Bauer, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Downy sunflower is also known as hairy sunflower, ashy sunflower and soft sunflower. Most of its leaves are paired. The stalkless, heart-shaped leaves clasp the stem. The entire plant is covered with white hairs. Flower heads are about two and one-half inches wide and bear yellow ray flowers around yellow disk flowers. The one-seeded fruit is dry and hard. Downy sunflower may grow two to three and one-half feet tall. This species may be found throughout Illinois growing in prairies. Flowers are produced from July through September. This species is an important food plant for grazing animals of the prairie. Downy sunflowers quickly form colonies as they spread from their underground stems.
Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

Native Plant Information

For more information about native Illinois plants, including where to purchase them and planting guides, view the following publications at our publications page. You can access more information on the Schoolyard Habitat Action Grant page, too.