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Manitoba Museum

Aster (Asteraceae)

Narrow-leaved Sunflower

Helianthus maximiliani Schrad.

This prairie perennial provides nectar and pollen for insects, vegetation for grazing animals, seeds for birds, and habitat/cover for small animals. These sunflowers produce chemicals that hinder the growth of neighbouring plants. Despite this however, they are useful for prairie restoration projects, and for erosion control because their spreading rhizomes help reinforce the soil. Indigenous people have used them for food, oil, dye, thread, and medicinal purposes.

Flower Colour:

  • Yellow

Flowering Season:

  • Summer
  • Fall

Flowering Months:

  • August
  • July
  • October
  • September

Canadian Rarity Status:

Not rare. Listed as “exotic” in Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island.

Physical Appearance:

Plants occur singly or in clusters. Stems are hairy, mostly unbranched, and grow 90 to 300 cm tall. The alternate leaves are long, narrowly lance-shaped, covered with white hairs, and folded upward along the middle. Individual flowering heads (1-50) occur on stalks from upper leaf axils. Each one consists of 20 – 40 yellow ray florets surrounding numerous yellow disc florets. Fruits are oblong achenes topped by a pair of awns, dispersed by wind or animals.

Similar Species:

Prairie Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris Nutt.), Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale L.), Stiff Sunflower

Gardening Notes:

Seeds and/or plants are often available from greenhouses and seed supply companies specializing in native plants. Plants are a popular choice for native or prairie gardens, and can be propagated by seed.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie


  • Disturbed Areas
  • Meadows
  • Prairies
  • Railways
  • Roadsides

Moisture Conditions:

  • Dry
  • Moderate

Light Preference:

  • Full Sun

Soil Preference:

  • Clay
  • Loam
  • Sand
Narrow-leaved Sunflower