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Helenium autumnale (Common sneezeweed)
Moore, April

Helenium autumnale

Helenium autumnale L.

Common Sneezeweed, Fall Sneezeweed, Autumn Sneezeweed

Asteraceae (Aster Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

This 2-5 ft., erect perennial has many elongate leaves and numerous flower heads. A winged stem bearing yellow, daisy-like flower heads with fan-shaped, drooping rays; disc flowers forming a conspicuous, greenish-yellow, ball-like structure at center of head. The flowers have raised centers and wedge-shaped, yellow petals which end in three teeth.

As the species name implies, Sneezeweed flowers in late summer or fall. The common name is based on the former use of its dried leaves in making snuff, inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits. Other Helenium species include Purple-head Sneezeweed (H. flexuosum), with a purplish-brown ball of disc flowers, and Slender-leaved Sneezeweed (H. amarum), with stems covered with almost thread-like leaves.

The genus is thought to have been named by Linnaeus for Helen of Troy. The legend is that the flowers sprung up from the ground where her tears fell.


From the Image Gallery

42 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Fruit is a cypsela (pl. cypselae). Though technically incorrect, the fruit is often referred to as an achene.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CA , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MS , MT , NC , ND , NE , NJ , NM , NV , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NT , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: W. Que. to B.C., s. to SC, TX & n. CA; naturalized in New England
Native Habitat: Moist, open areas along streams & ponds; wet meadows

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist clay soils.
Conditions Comments: Sneezeweed requires a damp site. The typical species occurs in the East. Var. grandiflorum and var. montanum are the common western varieties.


Use Food: Poisonous to humans.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: Leaves, flowers, seeds. Toxic only if eaten in large quantities. Symptoms include salivation, elevated temperature and pulse, difficulty of breathing, vomiting, and convulsions. Toxic Principle: Sesquiterpene lactone. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)

Sneezeweed does not derive its common name from the effects of its pollen. It was crushed to make a snuff that promoted sneezing. (Ontario Native Plants 2002)
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Propagate by seeds.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Using Native Plants Database to determine flowering time in Austin
April 07, 2006
How can I access your data base to learn what plants are flowering in Austin during the months of October and early November?
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

USDA: Find Helenium autumnale in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Helenium autumnale in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Helenium autumnale


Record Modified: 2022-12-27
Research By: TWC Staff

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