Helianthus mollis

tall sunflower, ashy sunflower, downy sunflower


Leaf Arrangement

alternate, opposite, basal (rosulate)

Leaf Attachment

sessile, clasping

Leaf Margin

entire, serrate, serrulate

Leaf Type

cauline, simple

Leaf Shape

oblong, lanceolate, ovate

Growth Form


Flower Color


Flower Petals


Flower Month

June - October

Height (meters)

0.5 - 1.2

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Easily distinguished from other yellow sunflowers by its neatly shaped, grayish-green, rough surfaced, clasping leaves that have an opposite arrangement on the stem. The underside of the leaves are covered with a dense coating of fine hair. The large yellow sunflowers are borne on short branches near the top of the plant.

Cultural Information

A colonial species that spreads readily from rhizomes. It is also easily grown from seed. Steffen (1997) reported improved germination with cold/stratification. Seeds average approximately 2,500,000/lb.

Animal Use

A preferred forage by cattle. The following information is for the genus Helianthus: Animals that eat its seeds: Mourning dove, Eastern white-winged dove, Bobwhite quail, Gambel quail, Redwing blackbird, Crow, Eastern goldfinch, Purple grackle, Meadowlark, White-breasted nuthatch, Pyrrhuloxia, English sparrow, Grasshopper sparrow, Savannah sparrow, Tree sparrow, Eastern pocket gopher, Meadow mouse and various other species in the east. Animals that eat the plant: Muskrat, Antelope, White-tailed deer (Martin et al. 1951).

Natural History

Ashy sunflower is a warm-season, medium height forb that was once found throughout the bluestem belt. Because it is especially palatable to all classes of livestock it is now difficult to find on any continuously grazed range. It is a sensitive climax decreaser and is seldom present in sufficient amounts to be a key indicator (Philips Petroleum Company 1956). It is most common in well drained sites.


Sandy soil, open drying places, and prairies.