Helenium autumnale L.
Common Sneezeweed, Fall Sneezeweed, Autumn Sneezeweed
Asteraceae (Aster Family)
USDA Symbol: heau
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
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall.
Fruit: Fruit is a cypsela (pl. cypselae). Though technically incorrect, the fruit is often referred to as an achene.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct
DistributionUSA: 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 ConditionsWater 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.
BenefitUse 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
Value to Beneficial InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: 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
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
BibliographyBibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.
Bibref 286 - Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country (1989) Enquist, M.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Research LiteratureReslit 102 - Age of maturity and life span in herbaceous, polycarpic perennials (2000) M. H. Bender, J. M. Baskin and C. C. Baskin
Reslit 775 - First records of Aethes heleniana (Lepidoptera : Tortricidae) in Wisconsin (2001) S. J. Krauth
Reslit 1171 - Analysis of arsenic uptake by plant species selected for growth in northwest Ohio by inductively coupled plasma - Optical emission spectroscopy (2007) J. R. Rofkar, D. F. Dwyer and J. M. Frantz
Reslit 1293 - Phylogeography of the narrow endemic, Helenium virginicum (Asteraceae), based upon ITS sequence comparisons (2005) M. C. Simurda, D. C. Marshall and J. S. Knox
Reslit 2206 - Tests of the genetic bases of character differences between Helenium virginicum and H. autumnale (Asteraceae) using common gardens and transplant studies (1995) J. S. Knox, M. J. Gutowski, D. C. Marshall and O. ...
Reslit 2324 - An Experimental Garden Test of Characters Used to Distinguish Helenium virginicum Blake from H. autumnale L. (1987) J. S. Knox
This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Helenium autumnale in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Helenium autumnale in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Helenium autumnale
MetadataRecord Modified: 2022-12-27
Research By: TWC Staff