Plant of the Week: Compass Plant

The compass plant is a member of the sunflower family that gets its name from its unique alignment to cardinal directions.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

From street-level, before even stepping foot into the park, you may see the lofty stalks and blooms of the compass plant rising from the green foliage of the High Line. The compass plant, Silphium laciniatum, is a tall relative of the sunflower, producing abundant yellow flowers of a similar look, but smaller size, than the common sunflower.

Compass plants get their name from their interesting tendency to align their leaves North-South, which allows them to avoid the intense direct sunlight of midday. These flowers are found throughout the United States, with a range stretching from New York to the prairies of the West. In drier climates, the taproot – or primary root – of the plant can burrow up to 15 feet beneath the ground to find water during even the driest times. While the soil at the High Line is much shallower, this hearty plant is still well-adapted to the heat of a New York City summer.

Between Little West 12th and West 14th Streets, and West 17th and West 21st Streets.

Download our July bloom guide.

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