Thursday, September 26, 2019

Helianthus horridus ssp. horrendous

Well, that's not actually its name.  I could also call it 'Sneaky Santa Fe' and that moniker might fit better, and it certainly snuck by me, but that's not its name either.  This rampant invader, my friends, is Helianthus maximilliana ‘Santa Fe’, planted in my garden in 2010 and eradicated by 2017 along with its cousin 'Lemon Yellow',  when I realized that they self-seed the 7 foot tall stalks everywhere in this climate.

Once again, to be accurate, I should say "attempted eradication in 2017."   It seems I was successful with lighter-colored  'Lemon Yellow', but 'Sante Fe', or its open-pollinated offspring, lives on.  It has persisted in the form of no fewer than 8 separate clumps which evaded my periodic weed patrols and currently grace the garden.  I've spent the summer pulling it up wherever I noticed it, all except for this spot, which is so nicely placed and healthy that even the busy Bella had to stop and pose with it.  "Any Bella-approved plant can't be all bad," I thought. "Let it grow in just this one spot, and I'll cut it down before it can form seeds."  'Santa Fe' had other plans.

It grew rampantly here, along this bed, hiding among the native goldenrod, and then swiftly sprawled this week out over the path, flattening everything in its way.  I need to cut it off before it seeds again, and I have to cut it soon to mow this area, but it is so pretty that I just can't....yet.

It also grew tall in this bed, hiding among the variegated Miscanthus and other tall ornamental grasses, but once this baby blooms, it is hard to hide, isn't it?  Beautiful and bountiful and bright.  I know that I've found other volunteer clumps in this bed this summer and pulled them on sight, but the evidence suggests that I somehow missed these.

This last little 2-foot tall-but-avidly-blooming example has cropped up in the short time since I last did a major weeding and inspection of this bed, barely a month ago.  Helianthus maximilliana  must speed up its growth as blooming time nears so that it can cast seeds as far as possible, even if it only has a few weeks to try to outshine the sun.  Is it still 'Sante Fe', I wonder, or has it evolved under the harsh Kansas conditions into something more formidable?  The Kansas version of kudzu, perhaps?  I promise, I'll cut these all down before they form seeds.  Or maybe I'll just "gift" other gardeners with the seed this year.  Perhaps this plant is like a flu virus and you have to give it away to be done with it.


  1. I have the same issues... can't remove them once it starts blooming. I usually cut them 70% july 4th along with large sedum and ironweed (50%) to control them from flopping. I even tried pruning 50% with Monarda fistulosa, which was a failure. Anyways enjoy the pollinators and blooms.

  2. Whew, I was a little worried when I first saw this, but I realized what I did what I always do, and had gotten Helianthus and Helenium confused in my head. I've got some Helenium autumnale in the courtyard, which is self sowing, but so far not so much I'd say its invasive. I was worried there! (Though, the common milkweed that was put in by someone else is sort of getting that way...)


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