Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
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  • Cup Plant

    SCIENTIFIC NAME: Silphium perfoliatum

    COMMON NAMES: Cup Plant, Cup Rosinweed, Indian Cup, Squarestem Rosinweed

    BLOOM TIME: July, Aug, Sept


    • Grows 4-10 ft. tall, more in wetter soils.
    • Thick, hairless, 4-sided stem.
    • Known for leaves that collets water where leaves join around stem.
    • Leaf cup collect rainwater & dew for birds.
    • Scientists think water around stems in leaf cups keeps potential insect flower predators from reaching flowers.
    • 10-30 flowers top stalks of plants.
    • Flowers are 2½-3½ in. across with 17-35 yellow petals that look like small sunflowers.
    • Native Americans cooked young leaves as a spring green & used as chewing gum to help prevent vomiting.
    • Chippewa Nation used a decoction of roots for back & chest pain, stoppage of menstruation, & for lung hemorrhage, while a poultice of moistened dried root used to stop bleeding.
    • Iroquois used root decoction as emetic & face wash for parasites with burnt root soot put on child’s cheeks to prevent seeing ghosts.
    • Meskwaki Nation used root infusion to alleviate vomiting in pregnancy, prevent premature birth, to reduce profuse menstruation, & anti-emetic during pregnancy.
    • Ojibwa Nation used infusion of root for lumbago, other rheumatic back pains, stomach pains, & hemorrhage.
    • Winnebago Nation drank a concoction from rhizome to purify themselves before a buffalo hunt.
    • More recently used in the treatment of liver & spleen disorders as well as treating morning sickness.


    • Long-tongued bees, butterflies, & skippers are common visitors & most important pollinators of the flowers.
    • Some short-tongued bees, wasps, bee flies, & other kinds of flies also visit flowers for pollen or nectar.
    • The larvae of the Gall Wasp feed within the stems of this plant.
    • Underside of leaves is a magnet for red aphids that congregate in masses & provide a home for parasitic wasps, provide food for predatory insects & baby hummingbirds.
    • Birds, especially goldfinches, are very fond of the seeds & drink water from the cups formed by the leaves.
    • Tendency to form dense colonies provides good cover for birds to rest in leaves during heat of the day or search for insects.
    • Large herbivores, like cattle, may eat the eat leaves of of immature plants.