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Plants of the Western Slope October 7, 2015

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Photo by Evelyn Horn Maximillian's Daisy

Maximilian's Daisy

We turn off of Highway 65 onto Myers Road. There's a lovely home right at the corner and just beyond it is a driveway into an adjacent field. I checked the driveway this morning to be sure that I could stop there. Now I step out of the car and walk to the spectacular plant.

Of all the Maximilians that Lola and I have seen in bloom in Cedaredge and Eckert, this plant shows the height and breadth of this species. It's taller than the fence (more than eight feet tall) and the width of the pipes in the fence gives me a comparison to show the width of the plant as well as the size of the individual flower stalks. Several years ago, I met this stunning plant in New Mexico as "Maximilian's Daisy" and chuckled at the name: "daisies" are small, low-growing plants that come in lavender, pink and purple. Maximilian's "Daisy" didn't fit!

But now I have the Internet and I am amazed to find that the plant is native to the central United States, from Ontario to Michigan and Ohio, then west to Alberta, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado and south to Texas. And it may occur as a garden introduction east and west of its native range. Common names include Maximilian sunflower, Maximillian sunflower, Maximilian's sunflower, Michaelmas-daisy. The botanical names are Helianthus dalyi and Helianthus maximilianii.

The USDA website states that Native Americans used parts of this plant as sources of food, oil, dye and thread while the pioneers planted Maximilian sunflowers near their homes to repel mosquitoes. They also used the blossoms in bathwater to relieve arthritis pain and of course the sunflower seeds were eaten and sprinkled on salads and other foods.

I believe that autumn has finally arrived, but this spectacular plant is a fall bloomer, so watch for it from now until the snow flies.

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Surface Creek
Evelyn Horn
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