Inula helenium
Common Name: elecampane
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Eurasia
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy

Culture

Easily grown in moist, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Plant about 3' apart. Tolerates wide variety of soils from sandy to clay. Best in cool summer climates. Taller plants may need support, particularly in areas exposed to wind. Plants depreciate rapidly after flowering. Propagate by seed or division.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Inula helenium, commonly called elecampane, is a rhizomatous, sunflower-like composite of the aster family that is native to Europe and northern Asia, but has naturalized in fields, clearings, disturbed sites, roadsides and waste places in parts of eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Minnesota south to North Carolina and Missouri. It typically grows to 3-6' tall. It is noted for having coarse, toothed, rough-hairy leaves (thin hairy above and velvet-hairy beneath). Ovate-elliptic basal leaves typically grow to 1-2' long on petioles extending to as much as 1' long. Ovate-lanceolate stem leaves are much shorter and sessile, decreasing in size from the bottom to the top of the central rigid hairy stalk. Sunflower-like flowers (2-3" diameter), each subtended by broad floral bracts, feature numerous very thin, scraggly yellow rays which surround a center disk of darker yellow tubular flowers. Flowers bloom July-September. This plant has a long and interesting history as a medicinal herb wherein the rhizomes and roots were at one point used in a large variety of medical applications, primarily in the treatment of a large number of respiratory-type ailments. The root is used today in France and Switzerland as a flavoring for absinthe.

Genus name is the Latin name for this plant.

Specific epithet is in reference to Helen of Troy (one story claims this plant grew where Helen's tears fell when she was abducted by Paris).

Common name comes from Old English elene which comes from Latin enula meaning genus name and campanus meaning of the field.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Cottage gardens. Wildflower gardens. Borders. Herb gardens.