Schweinitz Sunflower Facts
- Most notably, the dazzling plant with the hard to pronounce name, the Schweinitz Sunflower is an extremely rare variety of sunflower. Further, it also possesses an extremely limited habitat range.
- Quite understandably, the United States Forest Service currently lists the plant as Endangered. As a result, however, the species has full protection by both local and federal law.
- Furthermore, only 90 populations of the lovely sunflower currently exist. In addition, these all contain scant numbers of individual plants. In fact, these average fewer than 40 individual flowers each.
- This beautiful plant also bears the name of the individual who discovered it. That individual was Lewis David von Schweinitz. He was a local clergyman and botanist (1780-1834).
- Sadly, it now finds itself in a perilous situation, facing several threats. Finally, the greatest threats to its continued existence appear to be habitat loss and competition from invasive species.
Schweinitz Sunflower Physical Description
Firstly, the gorgeous Schweinitz Sunflower ranks a member of the Aster family. This family also contains more than 26,000 other species. Also, like many related plants, it evolved as a perennial species.
Further, its stems average an amazing 6.5 ft (2 m) in length. But, some occasionally attain heights of as much as 16 ft (4.8 m). Unlike most varieties of sunflower, however, the blooms remain relatively small in size.
Uniquely, the long stems actually display a deep purple color, which many consider extraordinary. The leaves grow thick and quite stiff and grow arranged in pairs. Meanwhile, the surface has a rough texture These also develop covered in numerous small spines.
Additionally, the relatively small flowers show bright yellow in color. Each plant generally produces 3-6 of these flowers, but can produce more. Also, these plants typically bloom for 2-3 weeks, beginning in August.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperms
- Class: Eudicots
- Order: Asterales
- Family: Asteraceae
- Genus: Helianthus
- Species: H. schweinitzii
Schweinitz Sunflower Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
Most notably, the Schweinitz Sunflower grows endemically in a highly restricted and specific habitat range. Its only known habitat consists of the Piedmont region of North Carolina and South Carolina, in the United States, in North America.
It is also thought that this sunflower was once numerous in forests and grasslands. Today, however, the majority of its populations occur along roadsides. This only further complicates efforts to preserve it.
In addition, the surprising plant may also be found in the few remaining regions of Carolina prairie. Amazingly, it also prefers to inhabit areas of poor soil, such as regions with high clay content and thrives in either full or partial sunlight.
Given that the majority of its remaining numbers exist along roadsides, highway maintenance is actually another leading threat to its existence.