A Compass Plant on a small prairie at the
North Woods Park near my home in northeast Iowa. USA

Compass Plant
Silphium laciniatum
Aster family (Asteraceae)

Description: A mature specimen of this native perennial plant ranges from 6-12’ tall. The central stem is thick, light to medium green, and has conspicuous white hairs. There is some branching into flowering stems in the upper part of the plant. The basal leaves are 12-24" long and about half as wide. They are covered in fine white hairs, broadly lanceolate in overall shape, but deeply lobed or pinnatifid. The leaves become much smaller as they ascend up the stem.

The inflorescence is very tall and elongated, with yellow composite flowers about 3-4" across. They resemble wild sunflowers in overall size, shape, and structure. However, like other Silphium spp., the small tubular disk florets are sterile, while the ray florets are fertile. There is little floral scent. A mature Compass Plant has 6-30 of these composite flowers, which bloom during mid-summer for about 1½ months. The seeds are large-sized, but flat and light, and can be carried several feet by the wind. A large central taproot can extend 15 ft. into the ground. A resinous substance is produced by the upper stem when the plant is blooming. This plant can live up to 100 years.

Cultivation: The preference is full sun and moist to slightly dry conditions. A deep loamy soil is preferred for the central taproot. It takes several years for a seedling to develop into a full-sized mature plant. Mature plants are easy to maintain, resist drought, and can handle competition from other plants. If planted on a slope, there is a tendency to flop over, particularly while blooming.

Range & Habitat: This is a typical plant of black soil prairies in the tallgrass region. It often co-occurs with Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem). Other habitats include sand prairies, savannas, glades, and areas along railroads.

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wildflowers, woods, prairie, yellow

Hello! I am a wife, mother, worship leader and piano teacher. Photography is a new passion of mine. I also enjoy singing, playing the piano & flute, bicycling and the theatre! Thank you for all your kindness and support here. God bless you!

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  • labaker
    labakerabout 2 years ago


  • Hi, Mister Larry!! Thank you very much!! :o)

    – lorilee

  • hilarydougill
    hilarydougillabout 2 years ago

    Congratulations on being featured in all about flowers. hugs Hilaryxxx

  • Awesome!!!! Thank you, Hilary!!! :o)

    – lorilee

  • Louise Linossi Telfer
    Louise Linossi...about 2 years ago

    a bright and pretty image

  • Thanks, Louise!!! :o)

    – lorilee

  • Jack Ryan
    Jack Ryanabout 2 years ago

    Great color…quite pretty.

  • Thank you so much, Jack!!

    – lorilee

  • Rick  Friedle
    Rick Friedleabout 2 years ago


  • Thank you, Rick!! :o)

    – lorilee

  • Monnie Ryan
    Monnie Ryanabout 2 years ago

    Beautiful, Lori!

  • Thanks, Monnie!!! :o)

    – lorilee

  • peaky40
    peaky40about 2 years ago

    Gorgeous capture Lorilee!

  • Thank you so much, Roy!!

    – lorilee

  • Charmiene Maxwell-batten
    Charmiene Maxw...about 2 years ago

    so lovely!

  • Thank you so much, Charmiene!!

    – lorilee

  • canonman99
    canonman99about 2 years ago

    another zippy image

  • Thank you, Dennis!! I like ZIPPY!!! :o)

    – lorilee

  • Dawn M. Becker
    Dawn M. Beckerabout 2 years ago

    Great capture :o)

  • Thanks, Dawn!!! :o)

    – lorilee

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