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Compass Plant

Silphium laciniatum

Children of the First Nations chewed the dried sap as gum; dissected leaves are oriented north/south



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Silphium laciniatum, commonly known as Compass Plant, is a native perennial forb (wildflower) that grows in prairies, glades, roadsides, railroad right-of-ways, and other open, disturbed habitats. According to some sources, this plant can live up to 100 years!

Wildlife notes

Long-tongued bees are the primary pollinators of the flowers, including bumblebees, Miner bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, and others. Short-tongued Halictine bees and Syrphid flies also visit the flowers, but they are less effective at pollination. Occasionally, Sulfur butterflies and Monarchs may visit the flowers for nectar. Several species of insects are specialist feeders of Compass Plant. This includes the uncommon Okanagana balli (Prairie Cicada), whose grubs feed on the large taproot, while a Rynchites sp. (Silphium Beetle) and its larvae feed on the flower heads and stems. The larvae of Antistrophus rufus and Antistrophus minor (Gall Wasp spp.) feed within the stems, forming galls that are not visible from the outside. Nonetheless, they attract the hyperparasitic wasp Eurytoma lutea, whose larvae feed on these gall formers. Similarly, the larvae of Mordellistena aethiops (Tumbling Flower Beetle sp.) feed within the stems, while the adults may eat the flowers. The oligolectic aphid Iowana frisoni sucks the juices from the flowering stems.

Forage notes

This plant is quite palatable during the growing season.

Landscaping notes

Easily grown in average, medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates poor soils. Good height for the rear of the border. Also excellent for naturalizing in prairies, cottage gardens, wildflower gardens or native plant gardens. Mature plants are easy to maintain, resist drought, and can handle competition from other plants. If planted on a slope, there is a tendency to flop over, particularly while blooming.

Restoration notes

This is a typical plant of black soil prairies in the tallgrass region. It often co-occurs with Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem). Other habitats include sand prairies, savannas, glades, and areas along railroads.  This plant recovers from occasional fires readily.

Watch videos about this plant:

Silphiums for Wildlife

Grazing Silphiums

Additional information

Weight N/A

Packet, Ounce, Pound


Full Sun

Seeding Rate

14 bulk lbs/acre


Average, Moist



Bloom Month

Jul, Aug



Specialty Uses

Wildlife, Medicinal

# seeds/pkt


Packet coverage area

5 sq. ft

Life Cycle


What is PLS?

Pure Live Seed (PLS) is the portion of good viable seed per pound. It is a measure of the seed that is alive and able to sprout into plants. This product is sold by PLS ounce/pound. To provide one ounce/pound of viable seed, you will receive more than one ounce/pound of product. Read more about PLS here.