South Dakota Native Plant Research
Asteraceae : Helianthus maximilianii

Asteraceae : Helianthus maximilianii


Download Seed: Achenes of this sunflower are blackish brown and speckled in appearance, 3-4 mm long. (64 KB)

Download Seedling: Sunflower seedling grown in research greenhouse at SDSU. (52 KB)

Download Vegetative: Leaves are 5-15 cm long. (98 KB)

Download Flowering: The flower rays can be up to 4 cm long. (64 KB)

Download Fruiting: Sunflower beginning to fruit in September near Brookings, S.D. (74 KB)

Download Dormant: Sunflower in late fall after it has set seed and become dormant. (64 KB)

Download Mature Plants (3.3 MB)

Download Maximikian sunflowers at Oak Lake (1.3 MB)

Family Name


Common Name

Maximilian sunflower

Native American Name

Lakota: waȟčá zi


Helianthus maximiliani is a perennial herb growing from a stout, rhizomatous root. The generally unbranched stems occur singly or in loose clusters, growing from 0.5 m to 2.5 m tall, light green to purplish in color and covered with short, dense white hairs. The simple, mostly alternate leaves are lanceolate 7-30 cm long and 1-5 cm wide, very pointed and folded upward from the central vein, with slightly wavy entire to toothed margins. The leaf surfaces are covered with coarse white hairs. The inflorescence contains few to many heads, 2.5-7 cm in diameter, on peduncles that emerge from the leaf axils. Each head has an involucre of several series of bracts that exceed the disk, 15 to 25 yellow ray flowers, the ligules up to 4 cm long, and numerous greenish yellow to dark brown disc flowers. The fruit are achenes 3-4 mm long. Flowering occurs from August into October. Maximilian sunflowers occur on damp and open prairies, in waste grounds, often in sandy soils, throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Maximilian Sunflower is very showy and attracts butterflies, beetles, and long and short tongued bees that consume the nectar and pollen produced by the flowers. Butterfly caterpillars feed on the foliage These perennial plants can form large colonies and require much space of continued maintenance. The grayish-green, narrow and folded leaves distinguish this species from other sunflowers species.

Horticulture Notes


Seed Collection: Collect seed in late summer or early fall. Germination: No pretreatment needed, but a 30-day cold treatment will increase germination rates. Vegetative Propagation: Subdivision of the rhizomes in spring Soils: Tolerates most soil types
Light: Full sun
Water: Medium to moist conditions.

Asteraceae : Helianthus maximilianii