Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
  • Home
  • Trailheads
  • Downloads
  • Privacy Policy
  • Return to Portal
  • Downy Sunflower

    SCIENTIFIC NAME: Helianthus mollis

    COMMON NAMES: Ashy Sunflower, Downy Sunflower

    BLOOM TIMES: Aug, Sept

    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie credit: R. Kapala


    • Plants can grow 2 to 4 ft. tall.
    • Plant grows in colonies.
    • Stem & leaves have dense gray hairs that can be rubbed off I give plant a "downy" feel.
    • Called “ashy” because gray hair covered leaves are similar in color to ash-covered leaves after a fire.
    • Flower heads grow 2 1/2 to 4 in. across on long stalks.
    • Flower heads follow the path of the sun during the day from morning to night.
    • 15 to 30 yellow petal flowers per plant.
    • Preferred habitat is prairie.Native Americans used a tea from plant as a fever reducer, stems to treat malaria, seeds were cracked & eaten as snacks, & ground seed was made into flour for breads, cakes, mush or mixed with beans, squash, & corn.
    • Native Americans made purple dye from plant for textile, body paints, & other decorations.
    • Oil from seed was used for bread & on the skin and hair.
    • Plant parts used medicinally for snake bites & other body ointments.


    • Flowers provide nectar for bees and butterflies.
    • Seeds are important food source for birds and mammals.