Fine hairs cover the stems and leaves, giving this native perennial a gray-green color. A classic sunflower that blooms for summer thru early fall. Thrives in poor, dry soils with gravel, rock or clay where it will form a dense colony. Can prevent other plants from growing around it so use this native in areas where an isolated monoculture can grow. Downy Sunflower is very aggressive–a quality some might look for, but in a small landscape setting it’s a plant that could easily take over an entire area. NATIVE FROM NEBRASKA SOUTH TO TEXAS AND EAST.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture —
Ashy sunflower is attractive to a wide array of pollinating insects. Bumblebees, Miner bees, large leaf cutting bees, Cuckoo bees, Green Metallic bees, and other Halictid bees visit the flowers along with several species of butterflies and bee flies.
The foliage is an important food source for the caterpillars of the butterflies Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) and Chlosyne gorgone (Gorgone Checkerspot).
The seed is utilized by many species of game and non game bird species, including but not limited to mourning dove, greater prairie chicken, ringed-neck pheasant, bobwhite, goldfinch, horned lark, eastern meadowlark, lark sparrow, savannah sparrow and cardinal.
Seeds and young foliage is consumed by small rodents, deer, rabbits, and livestock (Hilty, 2012)
Habitat and cover are provided to birds and small mammals by individual plant clusters and dense colonies formed with other shrub like plants.