Heliopsis helianthoides

Heliopsis helianthoides oxeye

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

Although this native, perennial species is sometimes called the oxeye sunflower, it is not a true sunflower. It is sometimes, for that reason called the false sunflower. The major difference is that both the disk and ray florets of the flower are fertile and produce seeds. In the true sunflowers, the ray florets are sterile.

The composite flowers of the oxeye have a cone-shaped yellow central disk made of many individual disk florets. Each flower head is 1.5 to 3 inches in diameter. The flower heads are erect, contrasting with those of true sunflowers that tend to nod sideways. There are two layers of hairy bracts behind the flower head, one large and one small, a key trait in identifying this species. These bracts bend backwards.

Unlike true sunflowers the 10-20 ray florets of the oxeye persist as the flower ages, turning dry and papery. Often the ray florets have small notches at the tips. The leaves of this species are relatively thin, short, toothed, and shaped like arrowheads. They attach to the stem in pairs and may be 3-5 inches long. The larger leaves have long stalks. There are two varieties of the oxeye, one with rough leaves and one with smooth leaves. In both types the stem is smooth. The fruit is a flattened achene lacking tufts of hair.

The plant grows 2-6 feet tall in woodland openings, thickets, and along riverbanks. It is found throughout the eastern half of North America except Nova Scotia and the far north. In the South it is more likely to be found in the mountains.  The blooming period is from July to September. The oxeye is a hardy plant and is easily grown as an attractive garden plant, even in dry, rocky, soil.  It is easily confused with the woodland sunflower and the thin-leaved sunflower that bloom about the same time.

Contributed by: Mark Welchley

Common in fields, woods, floodplains, stream banks.

Present throughout the state.

Wetland codes

Flowers June to September.

S-rank:  No rank
G-rank:  G5 (Secure)

Heliopsis helianthoides oxeye

Plant grows in the wild/spontaneouslyPlant is native to PA

Heliopsis helianthoides gallery
Plant Life-Form
perennial forb
Common Names
oxeye oxeye sunflower false sunflower smooth oxeye