Compass Plant - Silphium laciniatum

 

   LEAVES:  The Compass Plant gets its name from the way in which its large, deeply-cut leaves tend to present only their thin edges to the sun throughout the day (thus reducing water loss).

  BLOOMS:  Crowded, leafy heads of golden yellow blossoms climb the tall central stalk (to about 8 feet!) from June through September.

   Like all of the Silphium blooms, both the ray flowers  (the “petals”) and the disc flowers (in the “center button”) are yellow.

   ROOTS:  The roots of the Compass Plant are the deepest of all the deep-rooted Silphium plants . . . These roots grow down into the ground vertically; at about 3 ft begin branching; and eventually can reach depths of over 10 feet. . . . The fact that they can penetrate the clay subsoil is very important in a prairie’s soil building process!

  RESINOUS:   All parts of this plant are resinous (gummy).  Apparently, when the flower head is removed, the resinous juices harden to provide the gummy mass suitable for a kind of “chewing gum” — reportedly used by the Omaha Indians as well as by some of the pioneers.