Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Small Wood Sunflower - Helianthus microcephalus   Torrey & A. Gray
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
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AuthorTorrey & A. Gray
DistributionMountains and Piedmont, disjunct to Craven County. Absent from the Sandhills proper.

NJ to MN, south to northern FL and southeastern LA.
AbundanceCommon and rather widespread in the mountains and nearly all of the Piedmont, though rather infrequent in the northeastern corner. Very rare into the Coastal Plain.
HabitatMesic to dry soils of pine-hardwoods and other woodlands, rocky slopes, openings, clearings, roadbanks and wood margins, and powerline clearings.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting July-October.
IdentificationThe small heads and short ray florets should separate this quite familiar species (except in the Coastal Plain) from our others. Sometimes it has been mistaken for Smooth Sunflower (H. laevigatus), since both have glaucescent stems and leaf undersides, but Small Wood Sunflower has leafstalks 1-3 cm long (vs. less than 1 cm long) and smaller disks (0.5-1 cm across vs. 1-1.5 cm across). It can be misidentified as Whiteleaf Sunflower (H. glaucophyllus), but that species has its leaves glaucous whitish to very pale green below.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Small-headed Sunflower, Small Woodland Sunflower. Though the latter name is often in use, there is already a Woodland Sunflower (H. divaricatus), and thus that becomes a nested name; in addition, H. microcephalus is not simply a "small version" of the other species -- in fact, it is quite taller!
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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