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Compass Plant

Photo by David Welfelt

Common Name: Compass Plant

Scientific Name: Silphium laciniatum

Family: Aster

Longevity: Perennial

Height: 3 - 8 feet

Bloom Period: July and August


Description: Upright stems are tall and stiff. Leaves are rough, leathery, deeply lobed and mostly at the base of the plant. Sunflower-like, yellow flowers are produced along the upper part of the stem.

Comments: The leaves are sometimes more than 1 foot in length and grow with edges aligned in a north-south direction, hence the common name. Another name, “rosinweed,” refers to the gummy, resinous sap that appears when the stem is injured. When air dried, the sap was chewed as gum by American Indians. Prairie cicadas and Silphium beetles are specialist feeders of Compass Plant. This plant is an important range condition indicator; it is so sought after by cattle that it is rare in grazed pastures. It is locally common in prairie hay meadows and prairie roadsides in the eastern half of Kansas.

Photo by David Welfelt