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For Your Garden - December 2016

Native plants provide beauty as well as food and shelter for wildlife. Native species are adapted to the Illinois climate. They require little or no watering and are resistant to drought, insects and most diseases. Because they are perennials, you can welcome their presence year after year.

downy sunflower (Helianthus mollis)

Downy sunflower is also known as hairy sunflower, ashy sunflower and soft sunflower. Most of its leaves are paired. The stalkless, heart-shaped leaves clasp the stem. The entire plant is covered with white hairs. Flower heads are about two and one-half inches wide and bear yellow ray flowers around yellow disk flowers. The one-seeded fruit is dry and hard. Downy sunflower may grow two to three and one-half feet tall. This species may be found throughout Illinois growing in prairies. Flowers are produced from July through September. This species is an important food plant for grazing animals of the prairie. Downy sunflowers quickly form colonies as they spread from their underground stems.

Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

Illinois Range

Native Plant Information

For more information about Illinois native plants, visit our Native Habitat Descriptions, Requirements, and Plant Lists page. The following publications are available from the IDNR on our publications page.


​Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Asterales
Family: Asteraceae

Illinois Status: common, native