Helianthus petiolaris – Prairie Sunflower

Helianthus petiolaris - Prairie Sunflower, Plains Sunflower, Petioled Sunflower (flower)

Helianthus petiolaris - Prairie Sunflower, Plains Sunflower, Petioled Sunflower (leaf)

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Helianthus petiolaris

Common Names: Prairie Sunflower, Plains Sunflower, Petioled Sunflower

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Annual

Growth Habit: Herb/Forb

Arizona Native Status: Native

Habitat: Upland. This prairie wildflower grows in sunny, open, grassy areas.

Flower Color: Yellow rays and brown disks

Flowering Season: Summer, Fall

Height: To 6 1/2 feet (2 m) tall

Description: The large, showy flower heads have 10 to 30 yellow rays, dark red-brown disks, and green, lanceolate phyllaries (bracts). The leaves have 3/4 to 1 1/2 inch (2 to 4 cm) long petioles, leaf bases that are truncate to cuneate (tapering toward the stem), and are green to often bluish green in color, rough-textured, hairless above, hairy to hairless below, usually triangular-lanceolate to lanceolate in shape, more than 2 times longer than wide, mostly alternate above, opposite below, and mostly found on the stems rather than at the base of the plant. The stems are erect and hairy.

The similar Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) has broader, typically egg-shaped leaves, Texas Blueweed (H. ciliaris) has mostly opposite, sessile leaves, Showy Sunflower (H. niveus) has densely hairy leaves, Nuttall's Sunflower (H. nuttallii) has flowers with yellow central disks, and Stiff Sunflower (H. pauciflorus) has leaves with much shorter, 0 to 1/3 inch (0 to 1 cm) long petioles and only cuneate leaf bases.

Special Characteristics

Butterfly Plant – The flowers attract butterflies.

Edible – Although small, the seeds are edible and can be ground into an oily meal.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae – Aster family
Genus: Helianthus L. – sunflower
Species: Helianthus petiolaris Nutt. – prairie sunflower

More About This Plant

Arizona County Distribution Map