Maximilian’s sunflower

(Helianthus maximiliani)

Conservation Status
Maximilian’s sunflower
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


UPL - Obligate upland

  Northcentral & Northeast

UPL - Obligate upland


Maximilian’s sunflower is an erect perennial forb that rises often on several stems from a short-creeping rhizome and fleshy roots. It often forms dense colonies. It can be from 24 to 120 tall, though in Minnesota it is it is usually no more than 72 in height. It sometimes forms colonies.

The stems are erect, stout, round, rough to the touch, and light green or sometimes reddish. They are not glaucous. They are moderately to densely covered with white, short, stiff, ascending hairs, especially near the top. They are mostly unbranched below the inflorescence.

There are usually more than 30 leaf nodes on the stem. There are no basal leaves. Lower stem leaves are opposite and short-stalked, middle and upper leaves are alternate and short-stalked or stalkless. All leaves are firm, lance-shaped or narrowly lance-shaped, 1½ to 11½ long and 3 16 to 23 16 wide, 7 to 20 times as long as wide. They taper at the base to a winged leaf stalk that is up to ¾ long, and taper to a sharp point at the tip. The leaf blade is folded horizontally along the midrib, rises at the point of attachment, then arches downward longitudinally. The upper and lower surfaces are grayish-green and rough to the touch. They are covered usually densely, sometimes moderately, with minute, white, appressed hairs. The margins are usually untoothed, sometimes with minute, widely-spaced teeth. The leaves have a prominent midvein and no prominent lateral veins.

The inflorescence is occasionally a solitary head at the end of the stem. More often, it is an unbranched clusters of 3 to 15 flower heads at the end of the stem along with solitary heads or small clusters rising from the upper leaf axils.

The flower heads are 1¾ to 4 wide on stalks that are to 4 long. There is a whorl of 30 to 40 bracts (involucre) in 2 or 3 overlapping series at the base of the flower head. The involucre is hemispheric in shape and to 1 in diameter. The bracts are loosely ascending, and are spreading or bent backward at the tip. They are narrowly lance-shaped to nearly linear, and taper to a sharply-pointed tip. They are moderately to densely covered on the back with short, white hairs, and have a dense fringe of short hairs along the margin, at least near the base.

There are 10 to 25 yellow ray florets and 75 or more yellow disk florets.

The fruit is an achene.




24 to 79


Flower Color


Yellow ray florets, yellow disk florets


Similar Species


The grayish-green foliage and narrow, single veined, arched, folded leaves distinguish this species from all other sunflowers in Minnesota.


Moderately moist to dry. Prairies, railroads, roadsides, disturbed areas. Full sun. Sandy soil.




June to October


Pests and Diseases


Sunflower bullet gall midge (Pilodiplosis helianthibulla) makes ¼ in diameter, almost globe-shaped galls on the leaves of plants in the genus Helianthus.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Asterales (sunflowers, bellflowers, fanflowers, and allies)  


Asteraceae (sunflowers, daisies, asters, and allies)  
  Subfamily Asteroideae  
  Supertribe Helianthodae  
  Tribe Heliantheae (sunflowers and allies)  
  Subtribe Helianthinae  
  Genus Helianthus (sunflowers)  

Subordinate Taxa





  Helianthus dalyi  

Common Names


Maximilian sunflower

Maximillian sunflower

Maximilian’s sunflower













A dry, one-chambered, single-seeded seed capsule, formed from a single carpel, with the seed attached to the membranous outer layer (wall) only by the seed stalk; the wall, formed entirely from the wall of the superior ovary, does not split open at maturity, but relies on decay or predation to release the contents.



Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.



A whorl of bracts beneath or surrounding a flower or flower cluster.



The small swelling of the stem from which one or more leaves, branches, or buds originate.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.


Winged leaf stalk

A leaf stalk with a leaf-like or membrane-like extension along both sides.

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    Maximilian’s sunflower      


    Maximilian’s sunflower   Maximilian’s sunflower  
    Maximilian’s sunflower   Maximilian’s sunflower  

Flower Head

    Maximilian’s sunflower   Maximilian’s sunflower  


    Maximilian’s sunflower      


    Maximilian’s sunflower   Maximilian’s sunflower  


    Maximilian’s sunflower   Maximilian’s sunflower  
    Maximilian’s sunflower      

Late Spring

    Maximilian’s sunflower      



  Helianthus maximiliani
Matt Lavin
  Helianthus maximiliani  

Native rhizomatous perennial, stems to 2 m tall, leaves characteristically arch downward and somewhat folded longitudinally, pappus comprising a couple of deciduous scales, achenes not strongly compressed, common in wet meadows and along stream banks.




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Other Videos
  Minnesota Native Plant - Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus Maximiliani)

Published on Sep 2, 2013

Todays native plant is the Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus Maximiliani). A large plant for wet prairies and near water features.




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Anna Gronseth Prairie

Antelope Valley SNA

Baker Park Reserve

Belgium Prairie

Blanket Flower Prairie SNA

Blazing Star Prairie

Blue Mounds State Park

Bonanza Prairie SNA

Buffalo River State Park

Camden State Park

Carpenter St. Croix Valley Nature Center

Carver Highlands WMA, South Unit

Cedar Rock SNA

Chippewa Prairie

Clinton Prairie SNA

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Felton Prairie SNA, Bicentennial Unit

Felton Prairie SNA, Shrike Unit

Foxhome Prairie

Frontenac State Park

Glacial Lakes State Park

Glendalough State Park

Glynn Prairie SNA

Grey Cloud Dunes SNA

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Jensen Memorial WMA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kasota Prairie SNA

Kettledrummer Prairie

Kilen Woods State Park

Lake Carlos State Park

Lake Louise State Park

Langhei Prairie SNA

Leif Mountain

Malmberg Prairie SNA

Maplewood State Park

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Minneopa State Park

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Neal WMA

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Pavia Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Old Mill State Park

Ordway Prairie

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Pankratz Memorial Prairie, North Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Crookston Prairie Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Pembina Trail Unit

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Coteau SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Rice Lake State Park

Richard M. & Mathilde Rice Elliott SNA

Robert Ney Memorial Park Reserve

Rock Ridge Prairie SNA

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Sedan Brook SNA

Sheepberry Fen

Sibley State Park

Split Rock Creek State Park

Spring Prairie Preserve

Staffanson Prairie

Thorson Prairie WMA

Town Hall Prairie

Tribute WMA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Twin Valley WMA: North Unit

Two Rivers Aspen Prairie Parkland SNA

Tympanuchus Prairie

Upper Sioux Agency State Park

Verlyn Marth Memorial Prairie SNA

Vermillion Highlands Research Recreation and WMA

Western Prairie SNA

Yellow Bank Hills SNA

Zimmerman Prairie







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