Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum)
 
 
 


 
 
Compass plant belongs to the Asteraceae (Aster) family.  It is one of the largest-leaved plants found on the prairie.  Compass plants have huge basal leaves, and a 3 to 8 foot tall flower stalk with a few similar, but progressively smaller, alternate leaves along its length.  Basal leaves are broadly triangular and can be over 1 foot long,  and are deeply divided into a series of narrow segments.  At the top of the hairy stalk are several alternate, green-bracted flower heads measuring 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches wide, with many yellow, petal-like ray flowers surrounding a yellow center with many sterile disk flowers.




Compass plant in July
 
Compass plants typically bloom late spring to summer and is common in mesic and drier prairies.  It is often found along roadsides and in slightly disturbed sites.  The plant may be found from southeastern South Dakota southward, becoming more sporadic from Indiana eastward.

It is believed that Native American children used the dried resinous sap as chewing gum.

Additional information about this plant may be found at the USDA PLANTS Database:

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SILA3

Compass plant in June

Compass plant in June

Compass plant in June

Compass plant in August

Compass plant in August

Compass plant in August