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East Coast dune sunflower
Helianthus debilis subsp. debilis

Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer

General Landscape Uses: Accent or specimen wildflower in open, coastal uplands.

Ecological Restoration Notes: An importance componant for beach dunes and coastal strand along the east coast. Improperly used on the west coast where it hybridizes with the endemic west coast dune sunflower (H. debilis subsp. vestitus).

Availability: Widely cultivated. Available in Boynton Beach at Sustaincape Florida (561-245-5305), in Lake Worth at  Amelia's SmartyPlants (561-540-6296) and in Groveland at Green Isle Gardens (321-436-4932).

Description: Medium, spreading, short-lived herbaceous wildflower. Leaves rough, about 2-3 inches long.

Dimensions: Typically 1-2 feet in height. Spreading and becoming much broader than tall; plants will merge together and form large patches.

Growth Rate: Fast.

Range: Eastern coast of peninsular Florida from Miami-Dade County north to southeastern Georgia; doubtfully native to the Monroe County Keys.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Open coastal uplands.

Soils: Moist, well-drained sandy soils, without humus.

Nutritional Requirements: Low; it grows in nutrient poor soils.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Frontline; grows in direct salt wind but away from constant salt spray.

Drought Tolerance: High; does not require any supplemental water once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun.

Flower Color: Yellow, with dark centers.

Flower Characteristics: Showy.

Flowering Season: All year.

Fruit: Inconspicuous achene. All year.

Wildlife and Ecology: An important sand binder on beach dunes. Attracts bees, butterflies, moths, and other insect pollinators. Provides seeds and insects for birds.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed. Once established it is self seeding.

References: EDIS (UF)

Comments: Can become ratty-looking after peak flowering. Plants may need to be trimmed back heavily and allowed to re-sprout or recruit from seed. See also the Florida Wildflower Foundation's Flower Friday page and a 2019 post on the Treasure Coast Natives blog on why sunflowers bend.

Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by: Keith A. Bradley

Other data on Helianthus debilis subsp. debilis available from:

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