Common Name Maximilian sunflower
Origin North America
Edible roots, shoots
A branching perennial herb, growing from a stout rhizome and reaches heights from one half to three meters. The slender, tall, erect stems and alternately-arranged leaves are covered in rough hairs. The lance-shaped leaves are narrow, pointed, folded down the midvein, and up to 30 centimeters long on large plants. The plant reproduces by seed and by vegetative sprouting from the rhizome.
The flower heads are surrounded at the base by pointed green phyllaries which often stick straight out and curl at the tips. The center is filled with yellow tipped brown disc florets and the circumference is lined with bright yellow ray florets 2 to 4 centimeters long.
Tubers can be eaten raw or cooked. They are similar in flavour to Jerusalem artichokes, but lower yielding. Seed can also be eaten raw or cooked. An edible oil is obtained from the seed.
The thick rhizome is edible and provided a food similar to the Jerusalem artichoke for Native American groups such as the Sioux. The flower heads are attractive to insects and the fruits are eaten by birds.
The Land Institute, a perennial agriculture research center located in Salina, Kansas, run by Wes Jackson is experimenting with this species to create a perennial oilseed grain crop that does not necessitate replanting each season.