Bitter Sneezeweed

Bitter Sneezeweed

Regular price $3.65 Sale

Helenium amarum

Origin: South-central US & northern Mexico (via Cape Charles, Virginia)

Improvement status: Wild

Seeds per packet: ~50

Germination tested 12/2023: 92%

Life cycle: Annual

Native to the south-central US and northern Mexico, but now naturalized across much of North America, bitter sneezeweed (also called yellow sneezeweed, fiveleaf sneezeweed, or yellowdicks) is a lovely little annual wildflower with some unusual medicinal uses. As the name indicates, it can make you sneeze! It's been used to clear mucus from the sinuses. According to Plants for a Future, a decoction of the plant is used in a sweat bath to treat dropsy (edema or fluid retention) and other swellings.

Plant height ranges from 6 inches to over 2 feet tall. The pretty yellow flowers resemble daisies, but with a more spherical disc of tiny flowers in the center (upwards of 250 of them per half-inch disc), surrounded by 8 or 10 doubly-incised ray petals angled downward. The foliage is fine and lacy.

EFN co-founder Nate Kleinman collected these seeds in Cape Charles, Virginia, where they were found giving a splash of color and life to the abandoned edge of a gravelly parking lot.

NOTE: If you or your neighbors keep bees, or you pasture any dairy animals, we recommend you avoid this plant for a simple reason: this plant is so bitter that if dairy animals eat even a small amount of it, their milk will be intolerably bitter; and likewise if bees consume nectar from this plant, they will make bitter honey. But despite this, the plant is a good source of nectar for various wild insects. Rabbits, on the other hand, are said to leave this plant alone completely!