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Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)

Compass Plant
Silphium laciniatum 
(Order Asterales, Family Aster)
Silphium laciniatum in the field near Leon, Kansas (37 degrees 44.295'N, 96 degrees 39.8'W, July 2013). Photos by Chris Bevilacqua, 2013. 
Height: 1-3 meters (3-9 feet) tall. Perennial.
Stems: Erect stems, sometimes individually or many together, attached to a woody taproot that can infiltrate the soil down to 10 feet.
Leaves: Leaves pinnate-lobed, often aligned in a north-south direction. Progressively lengthens from about 4 dm long.  
Flowers: 2-4 cm tall disk, 2-3 cm across, with yellow ray florets. 
Flowering Period: June, July, August, September.
Habitat: Open prairies, particularly in areas of mild disturbance.
Etymology: The pioneers of the United States, believe and noted that the leaves of Silphium laciniatum point in a north-south direction giving it its name “compass plant.”
Conservation status: Not threatened
Native status: Native to the United States
Distribution: This species is widespread in Kansas.
Distribution of Silphium laciniatum in the Unites States (in green). From the USDA Plants Database  
Visitors: Particular value to bumblebees. It is increasingly being planted in gardens for visual appeal.

Video:  Silphium laciniatum Compass Plant Video

Human uses: Resin of the Compass Plant can be chewed like gum.

Great Plains Flora Association, 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. University Press of Kansas. Lawrence Kansas. 724 pp.   
Stevens, W. (1961). Kansas wild flowers. (3rd ed.). Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press.
Niering, W., & Olmstead, N. (2001). North american wildflowers, eastern region. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Chanticleer Press.
Submitted By: Chris Bevilacqua, July, 2013

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