Friday, November 6, 2015

Flower Friday: It may lack rays, but rayless sunflower doesn't lack style!

Photo by Eleanor Dietrich.
Rayless sunflower (Helianthus radula) 

Rayless sunflower is a unique member of the Helianthus or sunflower genus. Like most sunflowers, its flowerhead includes a compact but relatively large center comprised of many small, maroon to dull brown disk flowers. But unlike its relatives, its ray flowers are almost entirely absent, hence the common name "rayless." (Some specimens do produce a few small, yellow ray flowers.) Each plant typically produces a single flowerhead. Basal leaves are thick and rounded with rough, hairy surfaces (see photo below). Stem leaves are short, narrow and hairy. Stems are also hairy.

Rayless sunflower typically blooms late spring into early fall. It occurs naturally in sandy uplands, along moist to dry roadsides, and in seasonally wet savannahs and pine flatwoods. It attracts a variety of pollinators.

Basal leaves. Photo by Shirley Denton.
Family: Asteraceae (Composite or daisy family)
 Native range: Panhandle, most of Central and North Florida, and Collier County
Hardiness: Zones 8a–9b

Soil: Seasonally moist to dry, sandy soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 1-2' tall
Propagation: Seeds 
Garden tips: Although not as striking as its relatives, rayless sunflower is a great addition to a home pollinator garden. It is easily adaptable to a variety of conditions and will attract butterflies as well as other pollinators. It does best in open, sunny areas.

Rayless sunflower seeds are available through the Florida Wildflower Cooperative. Plants are often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where rayless sunflower occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=2689.

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