Plants with a Point

The flowers of Tennessee Coneflower

Nope, not spiky, thorny, spiny or prickly plants. These are plants with cardinal points.

You probably read in a recent email update* about Echinacea tennesseensis ‘Rocky Top’ and the fact that its flowers always point east.

An east facing sunflower at sunset

The same is true with sunflowers. While researchers are still not quite sure why this is the case, there is some evidence to suggest that pollinators prefer the east facing flowers to others in the field. In fact, in this research, 5 times as many pollinators visited east facing flowers.

It is not uncommon to find the flowers on the perennial sunflower species (Helianthus spp.) all facing the same direction as well.

Compass Plant

Of course there is also the Compass Plant, Silphium lacinatum. In this instance, compass is not referring to the direction of the flowers, but the North-South orientation of the larger lower leaves. It is thought that this orientation of the leaves help this prairie plant minimize intense sun exposure.

And then there’s Obedient Plant, Physostegia virginiana, whose flowers do not move with the sun but rather stay in place, for a little while at least, after you move them. So, I suppose, you could have them all facing the cardinal points and do your own pollinator experiment on them.

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