SNEEZEWEED SWAMP SUNFLOWER
(Helenium autumnale) Thistle family
Flower-heads - Bright yellow, to 2 in. across, numerous, borne on
long peduncles in corymb-like clusters; the rays 3 to 5 cleft,
and drooping around the yellow or yellowish-brown disk. Stem: 2
to 6 ft. tall, branched above. Leaves:
lance-shaped to oblong, toothed, seated on stem or the bases
slightly decurrent; bitter.
Preferred Habitat - Swamps, wet ground, banks of streams.
Flowering Season - August-October.
Distribution - Quebec to the Northwest Territory; southward to
Florida and Arizona.
September, which also brings out lively masses of the swamp
sunflower in the low-lying meadows, was appropriately called our
golden month by an English traveler who saw for the first time
the wonderful yellows in our autumn foliage, the surging seas of
goldenrod; the tall, showy sunflowers, ox-eyes, rudbeckias,
marigolds, and all the other glorious composites in Nature's
garden, as in men's, which copy the sun's resplendent disk and
rays to brighten with one final dazzling outburst the somber face
of the dying year.
To the swamp sunflowers honey-bees hasten for both nectar and
pollen, velvety bumblebees suck the sweets, leaf-cutter and mason
bees, wasps, some butterflies, flies, and beetles visit them
daily, for the round disks mature their perfect fertile florets
in succession. Since the drooping ray flowers, which are
pistillate only, are fertile too, there is no scarcity of seed
set, much to the farmer's dismay. Most cows know enough to
respect the bitter leaves' desire to be let alone; but many a
pail of milk has been spoiled by a mouthful of Helenium among the
herbage. Whoever cares to learn from experience why this was
called the sneezeweed, must take a whiff of snuff made of the
dried and powdered leaves.
The PURPLE-HEAD SNEEZEWEED (H. nudiflorum), its yellow rays
sometimes wanting, occurs in the South and West.
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