Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

A mature specimen of this native perennial plant ranges from 6-12' tall. The central stem is thick, light to medium green, and has conspicuous white hairs. There is some branching into flowering stems in the upper part of the plant. The basal leaves are 12-24" long and about half as wide. They are covered in fine white hairs, broadly lanceolate in overall shape, but deeply lobed or pinnatifid. The leaves become much smaller as they ascend up the stem. The inflorescence is very tall and elongated, with yellow composite flowers about 3-4" across. They resemble wild sunflowers in overall size, shape, and structure. However, like other Silphium spp., the small tubular disk florets are sterile, while the ray florets are fertile. There is little floral scent. A mature Compass Plant has 6-30 of these composite flowers, which bloom during mid-summer for about 1½ months. The seeds are large-sized, but flat and light, and can be carried several feet by the wind. A large central taproot can extend 15 ft. into the ground. A resinous substance is produced by the upper stem when the plant is blooming. This plant can live up to 100 years.
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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

This is a typical plant of black soil prairies in the tallgrass region. It often co-occurs with Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem). Other habitats include sand prairies, savannas, glades, and areas along railroads. Compass Plant is fairly common throughout most of Illinois, except in the SE and scattered western counties, where it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution Map). This plant recovers from occasional fires readily.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Silphium laciniatum var. laciniatum :
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Silphium laciniatum var. robinsonii L.M. Perry:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Silphium laciniatum L.:
China (Asia)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

Plants scapiform, (40–)100–300 cm; taprooted. Stems terete, hirsute, hispid, or scabrous. Leaves: basal persistent, petiolate or sessile; cauline petiolate or sessile; blades lanceolate, linear, ovate, or rhombic, 4–60 × 1–30 cm, usually (proximal) 1–2-pinnately lobed, bases attenuate to truncate, ultimate margins unevenly toothed or entire, apices acute, faces hirsute, hispid, or scabrous. Phyllaries 25–45 in 2–3 series, outer reflexed or appressed, apices acuminate to caudate, abaxial faces hispid to scabrous, ± stipitate-glandular. Ray florets 27–38; corollas yellow. Disc florets 100–275; corollas yellow. Cypselae 10–18 × 6–12 mm; pappi 1–3 mm. 2n = 14.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

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Type Information

Isotype for Silphium laciniatum var. robinsonii L.M. Perry
Catalog Number: US 482333
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. Short
Year Collected: 1835
Locality: Lexington., Fayette, Kentucky, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Perry, L. M. 1937. Rhodora. 39: 297.
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Isotype for Silphium laciniatum var. robinsonii L.M. Perry
Catalog Number: US 482322
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. Short
Year Collected: 1835
Locality: Lexington., Fayette, Kentucky, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Perry, L. M. 1937. Rhodora. 39: 297.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

This is a typical plant of black soil prairies in the tallgrass region. It often co-occurs with Andropogon gerardii (Big Bluestem). Other habitats include sand prairies, savannas, glades, and areas along railroads. Compass Plant is fairly common throughout most of Illinois, except in the SE and scattered western counties, where it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution Map). This plant recovers from occasional fires readily.
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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Compass Plant in Illinois

Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant)
(Bees collect pollen or suck nectar; flies mostly suck nectar; other insects suck nectar; most observations are from Robertson, otherwise they are from Petersen as indicated below)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus bimaculatus (Pt), Bombus fervidus (Pt), Bombus griseocallis sn, Bombus pensylvanica sn, Bombus vagans (Pt); Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Triepeolus concavus sn, Triepeolus lunatus concolor sn; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Melissodes agilis sn fq, Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn, Melissodes coloradensis sn cp fq, Svastra obliqua obliqua sn; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis brevis sn, Megachile parallela parallela sn, Megachile pugnatus sn cp

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon texanus texanus sn cp, Agapostemon virescens sn cp, Halictus ligatus cp np, Lasioglossum imitatus cp np, Lasioglossum pilosus pilosus cp np

Flies
Syrphidae: Allograpta obliqua sn, Eristalis stipator sn, Eristalis transversus sn, Tropidia mamillata sn; Bombyliidae: Systoechus vulgaris sn, Villa alternata fp np; Conopidae: Zodion fulvifrons sn, Zodion obliquefasciatum sn

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Danaus plexippus sn; Pieridae: Colias philodice sn fq

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Faunal Associations

Long-tongued bees are the primary pollinators of the flowers, including bumblebees, Miner bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, and others. Short-tongued Halictine bees and Syrphid flies also visit the flowers, but they are less effective at pollination. Occasionally, Sulfur butterflies and Monarchs may visit the flowers for nectar. Several species of insects are specialist feeders of Compass Plant. This includes the uncommon Okanagana balli (Prairie Cicada), whose grubs feed on the large taproot, while a Rynchites sp. (Silphium Beetle) and its larvae feed on the flower heads and stems. The larvae of Antistrophus rufus and Antistrophus minor (Gall Wasp spp.) feed within the stems, forming galls that are not visible from the outside. Nonetheless, they attract the hyperparasitic wasp Eurytoma lutea, whose larvae feed on these gall formers. Similarly, the larvae of Mordellistena aethiops (Tumbling Flower Beetle sp.) feed within the stems, while the adults may eat the flowers. The oligolectic aphid Iowana frisoni sucks the juices from the flowering stems.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Silphium laciniatum

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun and moist to slightly dry conditions. A deep loamy soil is preferred for the central taproot. It takes several years for a seedling to develop into a full-sized mature plant. Mature plants are easy to maintain, resist drought, and can handle competition from other plants. If planted on a slope, there is a tendency to flop over, particularly while blooming.
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Wikipedia

Silphium laciniatum

Silphium laciniatum is a species of flowering plant in the aster family, Asteraceae, known commonly as compass plant or compassplant. It is native to North America, where it occurs in Ontario in Canada and the eastern and central United States as far west as New Mexico.[2] Other common names include prairie compass plant,[3] pilotweed, polarplant,[2] gum weed, cut-leaf silphium, and turpentine plant.[4] It is a rosinweed of genus Silphium.

Description[edit]

This plant is a taprooted perennial herb producing rough-haired stems usually one to three meters tall. The leaves are variable in shape and size, being 4 to 60 centimeters long and one to 30 centimeters wide. The are hairy, smooth-edged or toothed, and borne on petioles or not. The back of the flower head has layers of rough, glandular phyllaries. The head contains 27 to 38 yellow ray florets and many yellow disc florets. The fruit is a cypsela which can be almost 2 centimeters long and is tipped with a pappus of two short awns.[5]

Biology[edit]

The common name compass plant was inspired by the "compass orientation"[3] of its leaves.[4] The large leaves are held vertically with the tips pointing north or south and the upper and lower surfaces of the blades facing east or west. A newly emerging leaf grows in a random direction, but within two or three weeks it twists on its petiole clockwise or counterclockwise into a vertical position. Studies indicate that the sun's position in the early morning hours influences the twisting orientation.[3] This orientation reduces the amount of solar radiation hitting the leaf surface.[6] Vertical leaves facing east-west have higher water use efficiency than horizontal or north-south-facing blades.[7]

Early settlers on the Great Plains could make their way in the dark by feeling of the leaves.[3]

Ecology[edit]

Flower head

Surveys of the insect fauna on typical compass plants have noted many different taxa, often present in large numbers. One plant can produce up to 12 stems. Surveys counted an average of nearly 80 insects on each stem or within its tissues. The vast majority of insects on the stems are the gall wasps Antistrophus rufus and A. minor and the many types of parasitoids that attack them.[8] The gall wasps, especially A. rufus, inject eggs into the stem, an action that induces the formation of a gall in the plant tissue. The larva of the wasp lives and feeds inside the gall, overwinters there, and emerges as an adult the following spring.[9] There can be over 600 galls in a single stem.[10] The galls are internal in this species, and generally not visible.[8] The adult female A. rufus locates an appropriate site to oviposit by detecting plant volatiles emitted by the fresh growing stem of its host plant, a mix of monoterpenes.[9] The male A. rufus also uses the volatiles in his search for mates. Females mate immediately upon emergence from the gall, and the male uses volatiles to find a gall containing a female, as evidenced by the movements of his antennae upon the plant's surface. He then waits there for her to emerge.[11]

Other insects found in the plant include several species of parasitoid wasps that attack A. rufus larvae in the galls, the two most common being Eurytoma luta and Ormyrus labotus. Others include Eupelmus vesicularis and species of the genera Brasema and Homoporus. The beetle Mordellistena aethiops lives on the plant, its larvae boring into the stems, and it is attacked by parasitoid wasps of the genera Schizopyramnus, Heterospilus, and Tetrastichus.[8]

Many birds and mammals feed on the fruits of the plant. The Eastern Kingbird perches on the tall plant to watch for insect prey. Livestock find it palatable.[4]

Uses[edit]

The plant had a variety of uses among Native American groups. The bitter, resinous sap could be made into a chewing gum.[4][6][12] The Pawnee made tea with it.[4] Many groups burned the dried root as a charm during lightning.[12]

The plant is cultivated in gardens.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Silphium laciniatum. NatureServe. 2012.
  2. ^ a b Silphium laciniatum. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
  3. ^ a b c d Zhang, H., et al. (1991). Development of leaf orientation in the prairie compass plant, Silphium laciniatum L. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 118(1) 33-42.
  4. ^ a b c d e Wynia, R. 2009. Plant Fact Sheet for compassplant (Silphium laciniatum L.). USDA NRCS, Kansas Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas. 2009.
  5. ^ Silphium laciniatum. Flora of North America.
  6. ^ a b c Silphium laciniatum. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  7. ^ Jurik, T. W., et al. (1990). Ecophysiological consequences of non-random leaf orientation in the prairie compass plant, Silphium laciniatum. Oecologia 82(2), 180-86.
  8. ^ a b c Tooker, J. F. and L. M. Hanks. (2004). Endophytic insect communities of two prairie perennials (Asteraceae: Silphium spp.). Biodiversity & Conservation 13(13), 2551-66.
  9. ^ a b Tooker, J. F., et al. (2005). Plant volatiles are behavioral cues for adult females of the gall wasp Antistrophus rufus. Chemoecology 15(2), 85-88.
  10. ^ Tooker, J. F. and L. M. Hanks. (2006). Tritrophic interactions and reproductive fitness of the prairie perennial Silphium laciniatum Gillette (Asteraceae). Environmental Entomology 35(2), 537-45.
  11. ^ Tooker, J. F., et al. (2002). Altered host plant volatiles are proxies for sex pheromones in the gall wasp Antistrophus rufus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99(24), 15486-91.
  12. ^ a b Silphium laciniatum. Native American Ethnobotany. University of Michigan, Dearborn.
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