top of page

Cup Plant

Common Name: Cup Plant.

Scientific Name: Silphium Perfoliatum.

What to look for?  Large, yellow, sunflower-like flowers sitting at the top of tall, thick stalks. The Cup Plant is a perennial plant. The central stem is tall, thick, hairless, and four-sided. The large opposite leaves are narrow and oval and join together around the central stem to form a cup that can hold water - hence the name of the plant. The yellow composite flowers bloom during early to mid-summer. Each sunflower-like composite flower consists of numerous yellow disk florets that are surrounded by multiple yellow or pale-yellow ray florets. The ray florets are fertile and produce thin achenes, each with a well-developed marginal wing, which are dispersed to some extent by the wind. The root system consists of a central taproot, and abundant shallow rhizomes that help to spread the plant vegetatively into substantial colonies.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? These Cup Plants were found in the restored prairie at Stonegate West.

How big are they? Tall! The Cup Plant is typically four (4) to eight (8) feet tall. The oblong leaves are approximately eight (8) inches long and five (5) inches across.

Where do they grow and thrive? The Cup Plant is native to North America. It is found throughout all the eastern and prairie states, including Illinois, and several of the Canadian provinces. The Cup Plant thrives in a variety of habitats, including moist prairies, moist meadows near rivers, low-lying woodland edges and thickets, fens and seeps, lake borders, fence rows, and along ditches near railroads.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Cup Plant is during early to mid-summer for about a couple of months. (Note: additional photos of Cup Plant in bloom will be added later this summer).

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? A variety of long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers are important pollinators of the flowers of the Cup Plant. Some short-tongued bees, wasps, bee flies, and other kinds of flies also visit the flowers for pollen or nectar. Various birds, especially American Goldfinches, are very fond of the seeds, and drink water from the cups formed by the leaves. Because of the tendency to form dense colonies, this plant provides good cover for birds, which often lurk among the leaves during the heat of the day, searching for insects or pausing to rest.

Interesting Facts About the Cup Plant:

  • The genus name ‘Silphium’ comes from the Greek name silphion, referring to a North African resin bearing plant.

  • Specific epithet ‘Perfoliatum’ means with leaves surrounding or embracing the stem, which form the "cup" in this species.

  • The Cup Plant is tough and imposing, but attractive plant when it is in bloom.

For more information on the Cup Plant and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Minnesota Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Michigan State University Midwest Invasive Species Information Network.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

bottom of page