The Compassplant, or Silphium laciniatum, is a native plant to the United States. It is a member of the Aster, or Asteraceae, family of plants.
A perennial that is slow to grow, the compassplant grows three to 12 feet high. Leaves are hairy and long with deep cuts on the leaf. They will move to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun, hence their name as the compassplant. Stems are stout and sticky. Flowers are yellow with green bracts edged with hairs. It is a deciduous plant. Bloom season is between July and September. Stems put out a sticky sap.
Compassplant prefers to grow in full sun with a well drained soil. It has a high drought tolerance. Propagate by seeds or by division, with seeds being the easiest method. Division is difficult because of the deep woody taproot that may go down 15 feet or so. Sow either untreated seeds in the spring or have two months of damp stratification and scarification if they are planted in the fall.
This native plant is found in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It is seen in prairies.
The sap of the plant, when hardened, can be chewed like gum. The seeds are loved by birds and small wildlife and the nectar is an attractor for butterflies.