Ahhh, love the Silphiums. Ever since reading Aldo Leopold wax poetically about this genus, I’ve been enamored. They include the Prairie Dock, Rosinweed, and Cup Plant as well as Compassplant, and they are all big impressive prairie plants.
“Silphium first became a personality to me when I tried to dig one up to move to my farm. It was like digging an oak sapling. After half an hour of hot grimy labor the root was still enlarging, like a great vertical sweet-potato. As far as I know, that Silphium root went clear through to bedrock.
I got no Silphium, but I learned by what elaborate underground stratagems it contrives to weather the prairie drouths.”
I’ve had the same experience with asparagus. To read one of his essays on Silphium, go to here.
So, how did Compassplant get its name? I’ve got a bunch growing in a restored prairie in front of my house and there doesn’t seem to be anything about the leaves or flowers that suggest anything about a compass. It’s not like they point in any particular direction. If you know the answer, let us all know.