Silphium laciniatum L.
Compassplant, Compass Plant
Asteraceae (Aster Family)
USDA Symbol: sila3
Compassplant is a tall, coarse, sunflower-like perennial, growing 3-12 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 plants 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
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Size Class: 3-6 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep
DistributionUSA: 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
Native Distribution: OH to LA, w. to e. Great Plains
Native Habitat: Prairies
Growing ConditionsLight 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)
BenefitUse 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 InsectsSpecial Value to Native Bees
Special Value to Bumble Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: 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 DirectoryAccording 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
BibliographyBibref 928 - 100 easy-to-grow native plants for Canadian gardens (2005) Johnson, L.; A. Leyerle
Bibref 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.
Search More Titles in Bibliography
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Silphium laciniatum in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Silphium laciniatum in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Silphium laciniatum
MetadataRecord Modified: 2016-04-03
Research By: TWC Staff