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Silphium laciniatum (Compassplant)
Bransford, W.D. and Dolphia

Silphium laciniatum

Silphium laciniatum L.

Compassplant, Compass Plant

Asteraceae (Aster Family)


USDA Symbol: SILA3

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

Compassplant is a tall, coarse, sunflower-like perennial, growing 3-10 ft. high. Deeply cut, hairy leaves, up to 2 ft. in length, usually orient themselves north and south to avoid the heat of the noonday sun. Scattered along the top half of the stout, sticky stem are 2-5 in. wide, yellow, radiate flowers. A tall plant bearing yellow flower heads with large, hairy-edged, green bracts; stem exudes resinous sap

Compass Plant is one of a group of tall, mostly prairie sunflowers, some with very large leaves. The common name refers to the plant's deeply incised leaves, which tend to be oriented in a north-south direction. The hardened sap of this plant can be chewed like gum. Rosinweed (S. integrifolium) has opposite, very rough, stalkless, untoothed or slightly toothed leaves and is 2-5' (60-150 cm) tall. Cup Plant (S. perfoliatum) has opposite leaves that envelop its square stem, each leaf forming a "cup" around it. Prairie Dock (S. terebinthinaceum) has large, ovate or heart-shaped, basal leaves to 2' (60 cm) long; the sparsely leaved flower stalk sometimes reaches a height of nearly 10' (3 m).


From the Image Gallery

22 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Herb
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Size Notes: Up to about 10 feet tall.
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


USA: AL , AR , CO , DC , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MI , MN , MO , MS , ND , NE , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , SD , TN , TX , VA , WI
Canada: ON
Native Distribution: OH to LA, w. to e. Great Plains
Native Habitat: Prairies

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Various well-drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Compass plant has a large, woody taproot that may reach down 15 ft. Slow-growing, long-lived, eye-catching, sunflower-like blooms. (Ontario Native Plants 2002)


Use Wildlife: The large seeds are favored by birds and small mammals.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Nectar Source: yes

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees

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


Description: Most easily propagated by seed. Seedlings take 2-3 years to flower. Sow unstratified seed in spring or stratified in fall. Deep roots make division difficult.
Seed Collection: Collect in Sep. and Oct.
Seed Treatment: Damp stratification (2 months at 40 degrees) and scarification.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

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

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-01-16
Research By: TWC Staff

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