• Helianthus spp.


Brood coverFood
Wild sunflowers typically bear multiple flower heads

Unlike domestic varieties, wild sunflowers typically bear multiple flower heads per plant.

©Al Schneider, USDA-NRCS Plants Database


Each flower on a stem is actually a collection of several hundred individual flowers.

Each "flower" on a stem is actually a collection of several hundred individual flowers. The inner, dark-colored center seen here is composed of disk flowers, while the bright yellow "petals" are ray flowers. Both disk and ray flowers produce seed if pollinated. Stands of sunflowers provide good brood habitat in the summer, and plentiful food in the fall. The conspicuous yellow flower heads are easily recognizable. Leaf surfaces are noticeably rough on most species.

©Tom Barnes, University of Kentucky

Sunflowers track the sun

Sunflowers are so named because of the flower heads' tendency to track the sun as it moves across the sky. Therefore, flower heads will typically face the same direction, as here.

©Larry Allain, USDA-NRCS Plants Database


Seed hulls of some species are striped, while others have all black hulls.

Steve Hurst, USDA-NRCS Plants Database


This large group of plants exhibits a variety of characteristics, but most of the commonly encountered species have triangular to lanceolate leaves, rough leaf surfaces and conspicuous yellow flowers. Seeds of wild sunflower species have the same shape but are smaller than sunflower seeds purchased for birdseed or human consumption. Unlike most garden-variety or commercially grown sunflowers, most of the wild sunflowers in the Midwest bear multiple flowers. Sunflowers thrive in disturbed areas such as crop fields, roadsides, overgrazed pastures and field edges, as well as woodlands, prairies, glades and old fields. They are commonly planted in food plot mixes. Native perennial species should be included in native grass plantings.

Bloom period

July to October

Use by bobwhites

Bobwhites readily consume sunflower seeds, though the seeds of several species quickly rot on the ground. Seeds have a high oil content, making them a valuable energy source. Dense stands are used as brood cover.