Helenium flexuosum (Helenium nudiflorum) | Purple-headed Sneezeweed
Helenium or Sneezeweed, is is a genus of about 40 species of annuals and deciduous perennials in the daisy family (Asteraceae). The name ‘sneezeweed’ was given based on the former use of its dried leaves in making snuff, inhaled to cause sneezing that would rid the body of evil spirits.
Purple-headed Sneezeweed, or Purplehead Sneezeweed, is a native wildflower to most of the eastern US. The lanceolate leaves are 1-5 inches long and continue along the stem, making significant winged stems. The upper stems terminate into individual flowerheads that are 1″ across. The bright yellow ray-flowers have 3 rounded lobes at the tips that are attached to a center globoid about 1\2″ across that’s purplish-brown in color. On the underside of the flower head are cool looking lance-shaped, green bracts under the blossom, which recurve sharply as the blossom matures. Blooms start in mid-summer and continue on to early fall and last for about 2 months.
Purple-Headed Sneezeweed is easily distinguished from Helenium autumnale (Common Sneezeweed) by the color of its center globoid, which is purplish-brown, while the globoid centers of H. autumnale and other Sneezeweeds are yellow.
Its common habitats include thinly wooded swamps, soggy meadows, wet prairies, moist swales and depressions in rocky glades, borders of sinkhole ponds, ditches, pastures, and abandoned fields. As long as its soil and sun conditions are met, it’ll grow great in both disturbed areas and high quality spots. Helenium flexuosum is also a great candidate for rain gardens or as part of a pollinator garden where the soil won’t get fully dry.
The flowerheads offer nectar and pollen as floral rewards to many different types of insect visitors, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and skippers. Plus it’s a host plant for the Dainty Sulphur Butterfly (Nathalis iole) as well as several species of moths.
Because the foliage is bitter-tasting, it is avoided by cattle and other mammalian herbivores, including deer.
Sun exposure: Full sun
Mature height: 3 ft
Mature width: 18 inches
Hardiness zones: 4-8