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Statewide IPM Program, University of California

Sunflowers  (Helianthus spp.)

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Life stages of Sunflowers seedling seeds maximilian sunflower texas blueweed common sunflower

Sunflowers are large, rough, hairy broadleaf plants with large yellow flower clusters. They may be summer annuals or perennials. When mature, the center or disk flowers hold scores of seeds that are very attractive to birds. Eleven species of Helianthus are found in California and some are classified as noxious.


Cotyledons (seed leaves) are bright green and two to three times longer than they are wide.

Mature plant

Stems are single or branched depending on the species. They are thick and covered with coarse hair. Leaves are spade shaped and range from about 3 to 6 inches (8-15 cm) to nearly 1 foot (30 cm) across and generally have rough hairs.


Flower clusters are composed of a dark center (disk flowers) surrounded by a halo of yellow to orange flowers that look like petals (ray flowers).


Fruits are single-seeded (achenes) and resemble those of commercial sunflower seeds.


In some species propagation is by seed only and in other species, by seed and creeping roots.

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