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A Comprehensive Guide to White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum)

White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) is a herbaceous perennial that is native to the state of Texas in the United States. This plant is a host to a moth and a butterfly and is an important nectar source for other insects. Growing from 0.75 to 3 feet tall, this species grows in open areas such as fields, roadsides, meadows, and prairies. The white flowers bloom from May to August and the plant is hardy in zones 5-10.

Taxonomy and Naming of White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum)

Herbarium specimen of white rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum).
Herbarium Specimen — Silphium albiflorum A.Gray collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)

Taxonomy

White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) was named and described by Asa Gray, an American botanist, in 1883. It still has the same name and is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).

Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names

Scientific Name

The genus name, Silphium, is derived from a Greek word that originated from a resin-bearing plant (Missouri Botanical Garden). The species name, albiflorum, is Latin for white-album and flower-florum.

Common Name and Alternative Names

The common name comes from the white flower of the plant and the resin in the plant. Another name found published is compass plant in volume 33 (1887) of the American Journal of Science and white compass plant (University of Texas).

Physical Description

White flowers of white rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) on a roadside.
Flowers of White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Plant Type: This plant is a herbaceous perennial.
  • Height: 0.75 to 3 feet tall
  • Stem: The stems are erect and glabrous.
  • Leaves: The leaves are alternate to sub-opposite, petiolate to sessile, deltate, linear, or rhombic, have entire to toothed margins (Flora of North America). The leaves are 1 to 16 inches long and 0.5 to 10 inches wide.
  • Flower color: white
  • Blooming period: This plant blooms from May to August.
  • Fruiting type and period: This plant has achenes that mature in the late fall and winter.

Range of White Rosinweed in the United States and Canada

Range map of white rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2023.(website http://bonap.org/). Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2023. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]

This species is native to the state of Texas in the United States.

Habitat

Prairie habitat in United States.
Prairie Habitat — USFWS Mountain-Prairie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This species grows in open areas such as prairies (Flora of North America), dry hillsides (Young 1920), disturbed limestone soils (Whisenant 1981 and Nesom and O’Kennon 2000), and roadsides.

Hosted Insects

Bordered patch butterfly (Chlosyne lacinia) on a yellow flower.
Bordered Patch Butterfly (Chlosyne lacinia) — Insects Unlocked from USA, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The members of the Silphium genus are hosts to the bordered patch (Chlosyne lacinia) butterfly and the silphius borer moth (Papaipema silphii).

Other Supported Wildlife

Honeybee on purple flower.
Purple Aster with Honeybee — John Severns (Severnjc), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This species is an important nectar source to other butterflies, skippers, bees, and wasps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?

The Native American Ethobotanical Database does not cite this species specifically, but other members of the genus have had numerous pharmaceutical uses.

How is this plant distinguished from other Rosinweeds (Silphium spp.)?

This species is similar to two other Rosinweeds. It is separated from yellow-cup (Silphium perfoliatum) by not having perfoliate leaves. It is separated from compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) by the white flowers. It is the only Silphium to have white flowers.

Is this plant invasive?

This plant has not been noted as being weedy.

Gardening with White Rosinweed

White flowers of white rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum).
Flowers of White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) — TDogg310, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hardiness

This species is hardy in zones 5-10. If your garden is within these zones and you have the right growing conditions (soil, moisture and exposure), you may well be able to grow this plant. However, if planted outside of its range, the hosted species may not recognize the plant or be harmed by ingesting a different species with an unfamiliar chemical composition.

Optimal Conditions

This species grows in full sun and dry sandy well-drained soil with limestone.

References

  • Nesom, Guy L. and R.J. O’Kennon. 2001. Two New Species of Liatris Series Punctatae (Asteraceae: Eupatorieae) Centered in North Central Texas. Sida 19(4): 767-787.
  • Whisenant, S.G. 1981. The Vascular Flora of McCulloch County, Texas. The Texas Journal of Science 33: 197-220.
  • Young, Mary Sophie. 1920. The seed plants, ferns, and fern allies of the Austin Region. University of Texas Bulletin no. 2065.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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