Silphium laciniatum - Mnoke Prairie

Family:     Asteraceae (Sunflower family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     1-3 m (3-10 ft)

Blooming: July-Sept.


Compass Plant

Silphium laciniatum  L.

Stem: thick with white hairs.

Flowers: large yellow flower-heads up to 5 inches in diameter.

Leaves: The leaves are large, sometimes up to 60 cm (2 feet) in length. The basal leaves are large and get smaller up the stem. They are deeply lobed and hairy.

Sun: full to part sun

INPAWS Native Communities:  Prairie grassland (sun)

Silphium laciniatum.jpg
Silphium laciniatum - Great Marsh

Comments: The common name comes from the leaves orientation north to south which can help if you are a little lost in direction. The reason they do this is to prevent the hot, midday sun from cooking them, thus saving water.  Compass plant contains a resin like its sister species, Rosinweed, that Native Americans used for chewing gum.  It differs from the other silphiums in Northwest Indiana by its large, very deeply lobed, alternate leaves.


Butterfly/moth host plant: Silphium borer moth (Tabenna silphiella)

photo by Nathanael Pilla

photo by Dominick Pilla

photo by Nathanael Pilla

Landscape: a great plant for the area in your landscape that needs a tall, showy perennial.  It can grow beyond 3 m (10ft) towering over small shrubs and perennials.  Compass plant grows well in full sun, sandy or dry black soil.

Species Present and Native