Helenium flexuosum - Rafinesque
Asteraceae (Composite Sunflower) Family
The Purple-Head Sneezeweed is an upright perennial; slightly hairy; branching to 2 feet tall. Its preferred habitat is roadsides, woodland edges, fields and ditches. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region. This was originally a southern species, but it has been spreading into northern and eastern states quite rapidly.
The very dark-colored disk distinguishes purple-headed sneezeweed from other species of sneezeweed, which have yellow-green disks. On all sneezeweeds, the yellow ray petals have three lobes -- these distinguish sneezeweeds from black-eyed susan and other yellow coneflowers.
The leaves are similar to H. autumnala, but the upper leaves are smaller and less toothed; alternate on the stem, linear to elliptic, or occasionally ovate. Most leaves narrow to a sessile base, and decurrent on stems as wings.
The flowers are solitary heads about 2 inches across; bisexual in nature and symmetrical in form. The ray flowers are female only, yellow and 3-lobed at the tip. Flowers occur in the summer.
Fruit is achene.
The plant is closely related to Autumn Sneezeweed, Bitterweed, and Winged Sneezeweed. Livestock eating the plant will produce milk that has a bitter taste. It is reported that some Indians used the plant to treat colds by rubbing the plant to induce sneezing.
The leaves of Purple Head Sneezeweed are a larval food for the Dainty Sulphur butterfly (Nathalis iole Boisduval). Dried and powdered flowers and leaves of the sneezeweeds have been dried and used as snuff. Purple Head Sneezeweed is sometimes available from native plant nurseries. It prefers an area with moist soil and full sun.