Helenium amarum
Common Name: sneezeweed
Type: Annual
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: United States
Zone: 3 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1.25 feet
Bloom Time: August to October
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Easily grown in dry to medium, sandy to gravelly, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best in full sun. Remove spent flowers to encourage additional bloom. Easily self-seeds in the landscape.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Helenium amarum, commonly known as bitterweed or sneezeweed, is an upright, aromatic, bushy annual of the composite family that typically grows to 12” tall, but less frequently rises to as much as 24”, on upright, striate stems which are many-branched above. Stems are clad with alternate, wide-spreading and ascending, linear to linear-filiform, thread-like leaves (to 3” long but less than 1/8” wide) with resinous glands. Daisy-like flowers (to 3” diameter) bloom from mid/late summer into fall (August-October), with earlier bloom typically occurring in warm winter climates. Each flower features 5-10 wedge-shaped, golden yellow rays, each ray having three lobes at the tip. Rays droop downward from a spherical yellow (occasionally brown) center disk containing numerous tiny disk florets.

This genus is primarily found growing in sandy soils in the southeastern to southcentral U.S. from Virginia to Florida west to Missouri, Kansas and Texas. However, it has spread over time and naturalized in many of the eastern, central and Great Plains states plus California. It is currently found in a variety of habitats primarily including disturbed areas, upland prairies, plains, rocky glades, woodland margins, gravelly areas along railroad tracks, roadsides, pastures and sandy/gravelly ground.

Genus name comes from the Greek name helenion which is the name of a Greek plant which honors Helen of Troy. It is unclear as to the relevance of Helen of Troy to the within genus of plants which are exclusively native to North and South America.

Specific epithet from Latin means bitter.

Common name of bitterweed is in reference to this plant containing a toxic substance which causes milk to taste bitter when cows graze on the foliage.

Common name of sneezeweed is reportedly in reference to a former snuff-like use of the dried and powdered flowers of this plant by members of some native American Indian tribes for treatment of blocked sinuses.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Foliage is susceptible to powdery mildew, leaf spot and rust.

Garden Uses

Borders. Also effective in prairies, meadows, cottage gardens, wild gardens or disturbed areas. Impressive when massed.