Cup Plant or Indian Cup

Silphium perfoliatum

Blooming now in mid-July: Cup Plant! The name of this sunflower-like aster comes from the manner in which the upper leaves adhere to the stem. The opposite, toothed leaves are fused at their bases, forming a complete cup around the stem.  The leaves are rough and ovate to triangular. The central stem of this plant is square and mostly smooth.

Cup Plant
Cup Plant: the ray flowers are fertile

But the real story here is the bright and cheerful flowers that can be up to 3-4 inches wide. Look closely and you will see that the light yellow ray flowers are fertile and the amber-colored disk flowers stick up prominently above the center, creating quite a show.  Pollinators swarm to these blossoms and birds flock to eat the seeds and drink the water that sometimes stands in the leaf “cups”.

I found these specimens growing along the banks of the Little River, near Floyd, which is  typical habitat for Cup flower. They are hard to miss because they are so darn tall: 4 to 8 feet high!  Bloom time is July through September.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Susan Lassiter says:

    Saw these along Smith River this weekend, near the railroad, upstream from Martinsville, while on a First Saturday float with Dan River Basin Association. Had not seen them before and no one along knew what they were. Now we do. Thanks.

    1. Gloria says:

      Thanks, Susan! Glad the site was helpful!

  2. Christian says:

    Dear Gloria,
    we are botanist from germany and working ob the cup plant. At moment we will stay for 3 days in Floyd. We would like to see the cup plants here. Can you help us?

    Kind regards

    1. Gloria says:

      Hi Christian,
      The photos on my website of Cup plant were taken along the Little River. More specifically, I accessed that section of the river from Slusher Store Road, which is off of Route 8 between Floyd and Riner. If you turn onto Slusher Store Road, you will pass the old store on there right and in a short time will be at the river. Cross the bridge to access the river by car. You can turn right or left at that point to follow the river in either direction. As I recall, there were colonies of Cup plant on both sides of the bridge.

      I hope that helps!


      1. Christian Wever says:

        Dear Gloria,

        thank you so much, we are now back to germany and we found them. We got a few seeds and will grow them now at the botanic garden.

        Thank you so much and best wishes Christian

        1. Gloria says:

          How exciting! Thanks for letting me know!

  3. Cathy says:

    Thoughts on how to get rid of these flowers? I have way too many taking over my yard

    1. Gloria says:

      Sorry I can’t help you with that Cathy! I haven’t ever had that problem! Maybe just taking a hoe to them early in the season?

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