COMPASS PLANT
File Size: 74 KB
 
Silphium laciniatum  L.
Riley County, Kansas
Perennial
Height: 3-10 feet
Family: Asteraceae - Sunflower Family
Flowering Period:   July, August, September
Stems: Erect, 1 to several, unbranched, stiff-hairy, sometimes glandular.
Leaves: Alternate, simple, stalked below, sessile above, aligned vertically on stem, pinnately divided into 5-7 pairs of linear segments that are sometimes again lobed, rigid, rough; lower leaves 16 to 18 inches long, to 12 inches wide; upper leaves less divided, gradually reduced.
Inflorescences: Several heads arranged alternately on short stalks along upper portion of stem. Heads 2 to 4 inches wide; bracts ovate, stiff-hairy; tips pointed.
Flowers: Ray florets 15-34, 1 to 2 inches long, yellow; disk florets numerous, corollas yellow.
Fruits: Achenes, flattened, about 1/2 inch long, glabrous, tips notched, enclosing small seed.
Habitat: Dry prairie slopes, hillsides, and disturbed areas, most abundant in rocky calcareous or sandy soils.
Distribution: East 2/3 of Kansas.
Uses: Compass plant contains a resinous sap that was used by Native Americans as a chewing gum. Some tribes burned the dried roots to ward off lightening during storms. They believed that lightening occurred more frequently where compass plant grew, and they would not camp in those locations.
Comments: The name "compass plant" alludes to the tendency for basal leaves of plants to align their edges north and south. Compass plant commonly is found in ungrazed areas; livestock seek it out due to its palatability.

Compass plant
63 KB
Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas
Compass plant inflorescence
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Riley County, Kansas
Compass plant stem and bracts
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Riley County, Kansas
Compass plant leaf
138 KB
Riley County, Kansas
Compass plant leaves
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Riley County, Kansas
Compass plant bracts
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Riley County, Kansas
Compass plant leaves
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Konza Prairie, Riley County, Kansas