Purple-Headed Sneezeweed, Beach Botany

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Purple-headed Sneezeweed, Helenium flexuosum, is a perennial herb that grows to a height of 3’. A single stem grows out of the center of a basal rosette. The stem branches at the upper portion of the plant. Sessile leaves are widely separated on the stems.  Leaves point straight upward. Leaf shape is oblong to lanceolate. Leaves at the plant’s base can be 5” in length and ½” wide. Leaves become shorter moving upward to about 1” long and ¼” wide. Margins are slightly toothed.

Flower heads occur at the tip of the upper branches.  Accordingly, the inflorescence is terminal. Several drooping yellow ray florets with three fused lobes surround a circular head with brownish to purple tiny disk florets. Head about ½” or more in diameter. Seed is an achene with one or two flat seeds. Blooming occurs spring to fall.

The habitat for flexuosum is wet flat-woods and flood plains. Distribution is in the panhandle, the gulf side of the upper portion of the central counties and way down south to the Everglades.  The genus Helenium is categorized in the Asteraceae  family. There are seven species in the genus Helenium, all native. Strangely, the flexuosum growing in the Dade-Miami Everglades National Park do not have ray florets. The specimen in the picture was taken in the Park.