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

    SCIENTIFIC NAME: Helenium autumnale

    COMMON NAMES: Sneezeweed, Common Sneezeweed, Sneezewort, Swamp Sunflower, Fall Sneezeweed, Autumn Sneezeweed, Bitterweed, Dogtooth-daisy, Helen's Flower

    BLOOM TIME: Aug, Sep, Oct


    • Leafy plant grow to 5 ft. tall with branching near top.
    • Leaves are 6 in. long & 1 ½ in. wide.
    • Flower heads have 10-20 drooping yellow petal-like ray flowers surrounding a mounded, round yellow disk. Ray flowers have 3 lobes along edges.
    • Each flower has its own hairy stalk.
    • Habitat: moist to wet ground in prairies, streams, marshes.
    • Common throughout Illinois.
    • Mesquakie dried flower heads & inhalant to treat colds.
    • Comanche soaked stems in water and bathed patients body.
    • Interesting fact: Pliny the Elder wrote in 79 CE that Helenium has its origin in the tears of Helen of Troy, and it kept women's complexions fresh.
    • Powdered & dried leaves & disk flowers of this species in past were used as snuff, giving rise to it's common name, sneezeweed.


    • Most common visitors are long-tongued bees, including honeybees, bumblebees, long-horned bees, cuckoo bees, and leaf-cutting bees.
    • Other visitors include wasps, Syrphid flies, butterflies, & beetles.
    • These insects suck nectar, although some bees also collect pollen & some beetles feed on the pollen.
    • Aphids suck plant juices while the Rigid Sunflower Borer Moth caterpillars bore through stems
    • & feed on the pith.
    • Mammalian herbivores usually don't feed on this plant because its foliage is toxic & bitter.
    • There have been reports of severe poisoning for livestock that have consumed this plant, producing such symptoms as congestion of kidneys & liver, lungs abscesses, & irritation of the digestive tract.