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October Gold Blooming Native Sunflowers for Your Garden

Author:

Yvonne writes about and photographs the flora and fauna of Louisiana, sharing knowledge she learned through study and personal experience.

There are many native Helianthus that brighten the roadsides in autumn.

There are many native Helianthus that brighten the roadsides in autumn.

Helianthus for Halloween

Just in time for Halloween, October brings bright yellow wild sunflowers that paint the native landscape in the bold colors of fall.

Many species of this large group of native plants grow prolifically in the wild and several types are suitable for natural areas in your garden. The bonus is that the flowers and seeds will attract song birds and beautiful butterflies to your yard.

Come join us in a virtual October celebration of the natural landscape with pictures and plenty of information about these golden petaled beauties. Most of the photos seen here were taken by the author.

Swamp Sunflowers and Aminatia Mushrooms

Swamp sunflowers and Amanita mushrooms grow in the same habitat and make a lovely Halloween display.

Swamp sunflowers and Amanita mushrooms grow in the same habitat and make a lovely Halloween display.

Gardening with Native Plants of the South

The sunflower family is the largest family of native wildflowers in Louisiana. Most of the bright gold and yellow flowers erupt in a mass of color in October at about the same time as the Amanita mushrooms pop up in the woodlands. This witch enjoys gathering photos of both.

The blooms and seeds of these hardy native plants attract many different kinds of wildlife including birds, butterflies and other pollinators. Most can be propagated by seed and / or by dividing the rhizomes.

Some of our favorites include:

Narrow-leaved Sunflowers

  • Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
  • Muck Sunflower (H. simulans) believed to be a hybrid of H. angustifolius and H. maximilianii.

Large Leaved Native Sunflowers

  • Paleleaf-Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)
  • Ashy Sunflower (Helianthus mollis)

Butterfly on Wild Sunflower Bud

A Gulf Fritillary butterfly sits on a swamp sunflower bud.

A Gulf Fritillary butterfly sits on a swamp sunflower bud.

Music from Sunflower

Listen to the music of Henry Manchini as you peruse the lens.

Native Sunflower Poll

Swamp Sunflower with Goldenrod

Swamp Sunflower with Goldenrod

Narrow-leaved Sunflower Seeds

Narrow-leaved Sunflowers

The several varieties of narrow-leaved sunflowers are large, robust beauties that blanket the fields and roadsides in fall. If you have a large garden or a natural setting, you'll want to include one or more of these sunflowers. In Louisiana, Swamp and Narrow-leaved sunflowers will put on a show in October, right before Halloween.

H. angustifolius (Swamp or Narrow-leaf) hybridizes freely with H. floridanus and other Helianthus. Muck Sunflower, (H. simulans) is believed by some to be a hybrid of H. angustifolius and H. maximilianii Muck blooms later than the others and has a wider leaf. It is more robust than H. angustifolius and can grow up to 8 feet tall here in Louisiana. The large clusters of yellow flowers with up to 23 petals (rays) and purple to yellow centers (disk flowers) often bend to the ground with the weight while in full flower.

Narrow-leaved Sunflower, Swamp Sunflower (H. angustifolius) is one of the most common fall blooming wild perennials in the Gulf Coastal region. It is characterized by exceptionally narrow leaves and will grow to 6 feet tall from spreading rhizomes. As with the other sunflowers, there is much variability.

The yellow flowers occur in large clusters and have up to 21 petals (rays) that surround a purplish red (rarely yellow) center (disk flower). Blooming occurs from August to December with the most flowers in October. Plants grow in moist to wet roadsides, ditches, flat woods, bogs and fields throughout the region.

Woodland Native Sunflower

Woodland Native Sunflower

There are several large, oval leaved native sunflowers that will brighten up any fall garden, but identification of each can be difficult. Here are a few of the more attractive ones that we grow in our garden.

Pale-leaf-Woodland Sunflower

Helianthus strumosus

This 6 foot tall showy perennial grows along roadsides, woods and in open places throughout the Gulf Coast region. Attractive heads of yellow flowers bloom from June to September. The plants are robust and hardy and will grow in weedy, disturbed or sandy soils in the pine hills.

Ashy Sunflower

H. mollis

A perennial herb growing up to 8 feet tall from creeping rhizomes. Large golden yellow flowers bloom from June to September in prairie and pine land areas in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.

Ashy Sunflower

Ashy sunflower will grow in harsh conditions and blooms in late summer.

Ashy sunflower will grow in harsh conditions and blooms in late summer.

Sunflower Helianthus and Bumblebee

Native sunflowers are important pollinator plants especially for native bees, honeybees and butterflies.

Native sunflowers are important pollinator plants especially for native bees, honeybees and butterflies.

All of these Helianthus are easy to grow perennials. Some, like H. angustifolius, prefer moist soil. They need plenty of room and will spread by underground rhizomes and by seed.

They do well in the back of a perennial border or in naturalistic settings.

To make a bushier, shorter clump, prune back before July 4th.

Wildlife Uses of Helianthus Species

A Gulf Fritillary on Spent Swamp Sunflowers. In winter these pods provide food for small songbirds.

A Gulf Fritillary on Spent Swamp Sunflowers. In winter these pods provide food for small songbirds.

What Uses Wild Sunflowers?

The flowers are visited by butterflies and other insect pollinators. Even though the yellow petals (rays) have died, the small flowers which are located in the center part, are still full of nectar. These tiny flowers are what attract butterflies and other pollinators. Song birds and rodents, including Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, Bobwhite, House finch, Meadowlark, White-breasted Nuthatch, native Sparrows and wood mouse eat the seeds.

Bumblebee on Sunflower

Bumblebees are one of the native bees which pollinate our fruits and vegetables.

Bumblebees are one of the native bees which pollinate our fruits and vegetables.

Spider on Sunflower

This type of crab spider lives on a stand of woodland sunflowers.

This type of crab spider lives on a stand of woodland sunflowers.

More About Louisiana Wildflowers

  • Native Perennials for Southern Gardens
    Native perennials and wildflowers are an important part of our sustainable landscape. You'll find photographs, book recommendations and links to some of our favorite southern native plants.
  • Wild Asters of Autumn
    Photos of wild asters, butterflies and bees taken by the author are featured on this page. Information about identifying and growing the various native asters of Louisiana is also provided.
  • Indian Pink, Perennial Wildflower
    Beautiful native Indian pink deserves a place in any garden. It attracts hummingbirds and other pollinators and is a joy to behold.

© 2010 Yvonne L B

Brighten our day with a comment

faheemjamal on February 19, 2012:

Reveal the sentiment of Florist all of the life's big times and little delights.

This is great resource will help through the many options florist thanks you for sharing.

callinsky lm on September 09, 2010:

I love wildflowers, especially Helianthus Sunflowers. They are just so happy. You have taken such beautiful photos, too. You definitely have a photographers eye. Simply beautiful.

bconnor11 on August 12, 2010:

This is a beautifully done lens plus all the pictures are terrific!

bdkz on August 12, 2010:

Congratulations! You've been SquidBoo Blasted. Happy Halloween!

Robin S from USA on August 12, 2010:

These flowers are stunning!