The Heliopsis Persoon genus and Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

The Heliopsis Persoon genus

sep_01_09.gthmb can't be loaded. Plants of the Heliopsis genus are usually perennials but some are annuals. Their leaves are cauline, petiolate and opposite. Their margins have teeth. The flower head have persistent phyllaries in 2 to 3 series. The have both yellow to orange ray florets and yellow or brown to purple disc florets . Their chromosome number (2n) is 14.

There are about 20 species in the genus; they are found in North America, Mexico, Central America and South America, down to Bolivia; most species are known only from Mexico. Three species are found in North America, one, Heliopsis helianthoides, with 2 varieties, helianthoides and scabra; the later is the species found in Québec. The genus belongs to the Asteraceae family.

Heliopsis helianthoides (Linnaeus) Sweet var. scabra (Dunal) Fernald

Heliopsis helianthoides is a native perennial that grows from a creeping rhizomes to about one meter or more in height, branching occasionally and becoming rather bushy in open situations.


In Greek ηλιοσ (êlios) is the sun and οψισ (opsis) means appearance, so that the genus name means like the sun and refers the the flower heads. In Greek, ειδοσ (eidos) means external aspect and Helianthus is the scientific name of the Sunflower so that the epithet means like the Sunflower, so that Heliopsis helianthoides means like the sun like the Sunflower. As for Helianthus it is also from the Greek ηλιοσ (sun) and ανθοσ (anthos) that means flower, i.e. Helianthus is a sunlike flower so that Heliopsis helianthoides is a fact a flower like the sun in the shape of a flower like the sun, so that some botanists like tautologies. (As far as the Heliopsis helianthoides var. helianthoides is concerned, it is then a tautological tautology.)

In Latin the feminine adjective scabra means rough, so that the name for the variety refers to the leaves that are a bit rough to the touch.

Common names

Some of the vernacular names of Heliopsis helianthoides are Ox-eye, Sweet Oxeye, Smooth Oxeye, False Sunflower and Rough weliopsis. Two French vernacular names are Héliopside scabre and Héliopside faux-hélianthe.


Heliopsis helianthoides has also been known as:


Heliopsis helianthoides is easy to identify by its large size, its large golden yellow flower heads, and its long blooming period. Heliopsis helianthoides var. helianthoides (up to now [2007] not found in Québec) has ovate leaves that are usually larger that those of Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra, the later being furthermore deltate to narrowly ovate-lanceolate. Furthermore the scabra variety has moderately to densely scaberulose to scabrous leaves, while the helianthoides variety has its abaxial faces glabrous or sparsely pubescent and its adaxial faces glabrous or minutely scabrellous.

Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra could however easily be confused with Heliopsis helianthoides var. helianthoides at least where both can be found; furthermore intermediates occur between var. helianthoides and var. scabra. Usually, var. helianthoides has longer petioles, has smaller flower heads on shorter peduncles, and occupies less-open habitats than var. scabra.

Heliopsis helianthoides flowers closely resemble those of Helianthus annuus (the Sunflower). They can be distinguished by their ray florets; those of Heliopsis helianthoides have pistils, but those on Helianthus annuus are sterile, as they have neither pistils nor stamens. draw.jpg can't be loaded.




Flower heads



Heliopsis helianthoides is found in dry waste areas, roadsides, open woods, and edges of fields and thickets.


map_na.jpg can't be loaded. The map show the distribution of Heliopsis helianthoides for the USA and Canada. Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra as a more restricted range; in Canada it is found in Ontario and Québec; in the US it is found in New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, New Mexico and Texas.


The Chippewa used a decoction of dried root or chewed fresh root to spit on limbs as as stimulant. The Meskwaki used the roots to treat lung troubles.

Heliopsis helianthoides is often grown in flower gardens, and sometimes escapes to neighboring waste areas. It has many cultivars, Light of Loddon, Ballerina, Summer Sun, etc. It is a prime source of food for songbirds in winter.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: Minolta DiMAGE 7, Canon PowerShot A530, Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective, Fujifilm A 610 and EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner). The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day. The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter which I use to identify the system used to take the picture.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, often of dimensions one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.


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Flower heads

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Fruits, seeds

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