Helianthus mollis, commonly called Ashy or Downy sunflower is a predominant species in the Tucker Mini-Prairie, and it has been blooming for weeks now. This plant belongs in the Asteraceae or Daisy family, one of the largest plant families on earth. The root system of this plant is rhizomatous, allowing it to spread uncontrollably underground. It can spread very aggressively, and its root system exudes allelopathic chemicals that can inhibit the growth of other plants surrounding it. Common habitats for this plant are dry to mesic prairies, sand prairies, rocky glades, & roadsides. This plant would take over this tiny patch of ground called the Tucker Mini-Prairie if we didn’t constantly cut it back and remove seed heads.
Lots of different types of pollinators visit the flowers of the Ashy sunflower. Primarily bees visit the flowers for nectar or pollen. Goldfinches are partial to the seeds of this plant. Two caterpillars of the butterflies Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) and Chlosyne gorgone (Gorgone Checkerspot) feed on its leaves.