A perennial plant in the aster/daisy family, the common sneezeweed can be found in most of the US enjoying rich moist soils. It blooms late summer through fall providing food for bees and butterflies. As a composite flower it has both large showy ray flowers that look like petals which surround the smaller disk flowers that make up the center. The bright yellow 'petals' are wedge shaped with three lobes on the outer edge that droop away from the central disk - this is the easiest way to tell them apart from similar flowers like the oxeye sunflower.
The genus name, Helenium, is a reference to Helen of Troy. The legend says that these flowers sprang from the ground where Helen's tears fell.
Although the name might make you think this plant is a cause of seasonal allergies, it (much like the goldenrod) has too heavy pollen to be blown through the air and instead has to be pollinated by insects (again, ragweed is the main discussed culprit of fall allergies). However, at one time it was used to make a form of snuff to induce sneezing - the sneezes were a desirable way to rid the body of evil spirits.
No part of this plant is edible to humans.
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Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.