Maximilian Sunflower

  • Scientific Name: Helianthus maximiliani
  • Native prairie perennial
  • Range Plant
  • Erosion Control, Livestock, Restoration, Wildlife

Quantity is per pound. Example: 1 = 1 lb, 2 = 2 lbs, 3 = 3lbs, etc. This is pure seed, not a live plant.


Maximilian Sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani) is a native prairie perennial, this sunflower is a desirable range plant, eaten by many livestock. It was named for the naturalist Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied, Germany, who led an expedition into the American West in the 1830s. The several tall, leafy, unbranched stems of michaelmas-daisy or maximilian sunflower grow to a height of 3-10 ft. Leaves are long and narrow. The leaves are coarse and hairy, slightly wavy on the edges, often folded lengthwise, slightly toothed and very pointed. Numerous yellow flower heads grow on their own stalks terminally and from leaf axils.

Erosion control: Maximilian sunflower has a perennial root crown and rhizomatous root system. Annual stems are produced from underground stems. This growth pattern allows Maximilian sunflower to spread and form dense plant clusters, reinforcing soil and preventing erosion.

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used parts of this plant as sources of food, oil, dye, and thread. Pioneers planted Maximilian sunflowers near their homes to repel mosquitoes and used the blossoms in bathwater to relieve arthritis pain. Sunflower seeds are eaten as snack items and sprinkled on salads and other foods. Industrial products: The natural rubber present in Maximilian sunflower qualifies the plant as a potential source of industrial raw materials.

Livestock: Although the protein value of Maximilian sunflower is poor, it is a palatable livestock forage species. It remains green late into the fall and is consumed until the first frost makes it less flavorful. It is plentiful on ranges that are not closely grazed. Moderate grazing can increase the presence of Maximilian sunflower. Ornamental: The bright yellow flowers of Maximilian sunflower make it a popular choice for use in native gardens. It can be utilized as a hedge or natural screen because of its height.

Restoration: Maximilian sunflower is used as a conservation planting for habitat development, prairie restoration and landscaping, and range and pasture maintenance. It can be used in filterstrip plantings. It has been used with native grasses in Kansas to revegetate coalmine spoils.

Wildlife: Butterflies, beetles, and long- and shorttongued bees consume the nectar or pollen produced the flowers of Maximilian sunflower. Butterfly caterpillars feed on the foliage while moth caterpillars bore through the stems. Upland game birds, small non-game birds, and some waterfowl consume its seeds. Rabbits and groundhogs feed on young plants while elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and pronghorn antelope browse and graze older plants. It has poor nutritional value for these species. Habitat and cover are provided to birds and small mammals by individual plant clusters and dense colonies formed with other shrub-like plants.

Common Names: Max Sunflower, Helianthus dalyi, Michaelmas-daisy.

(Helianthus maximiliani)

Maximilian Sunflower NRCS Plant Guide and Fact Sheet

PDF version of NRCS Plant Guide

Prepared By: Sarah Wennerberg, formerly USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Species Coordinator: Mark Skinner, USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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Right: Company founder Lloyd and his wife Paula Stevens in a wildflower seed production field circa 1977

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