Prairie Dock Silphium terebinthinaceum

👤 Non-toxic to humans
🐾 Non-toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
prairie burdock


The plant in question, commonly known as prairie dock, is distinguished by its large, heart-shaped leaves that are typically rough to the touch, with a deep green color and a somewhat sandpapery texture on the upper surface. The undersides of the leaves can have a whitish or hairy appearance. These leaves often grow out from a central base or rosette, spreading outward at ground level. Prairie dock sends up tall, sturdy flowering stalks that are topped with bright yellow flowers, resembling sunflowers. These flower heads consist of a central disk, densely packed with small tubular flowers surrounded by larger petal-like ray florets that are usually arranged in a single layer. The overall impression is that of a cheerful, sun-loving plant that is quite striking when in bloom with its sunny yellow blossoms. The plant possesses a rigid and robust stem, which allows it to support the large flower heads that bloom during the warm months. As they mature, the flowers will form seed heads, which can be fluffy and are often attractive to various wildlife seeking sustenance. Overall, prairie dock has a distinctly bold and architectural presence, due in part to its broad leaves and the visual impact of its tall flowers and their bright, eye-catching color. It is a plant that is resilient and able to withstand tough conditions, with a rugged demeanor that speaks to its prairie origins.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Synonyms

      Prairie Dock, Prairie Rosinweed, Turpentine Plant, Pilotweed, Silphium.

    • Common names

      Silphium terebinthinaceum var. luciae-brauniae.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Prairie dock is generally not considered toxic to humans. However, like with many plants, individual allergies or sensitivities could potentially cause mild irritation or an allergic reaction in some people.

    • To pets

      Prairie dock is not known to be toxic to pets. However, it is always prudent to monitor pets around plants and discourage them from eating plant material, as individual animals may react differently or experience gastrointestinal upset if they consume non-food items.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      4-10 feet [1.2-3 meters]

    • Spread

      2-6 feet [0.6-1.8 meters]

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      North America


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Wildlife Attraction: Silphium terebinthinaceum, commonly known as prairie dock, is known for attracting birds and pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, which are essential for ecosystem health and plant pollination.
    • Erosion Control: Its deep root system helps stabilize soil and prevents erosion, making it valuable for conservation and restoration projects.
    • Drought Resistance: Prairie dock is highly drought-resistant once established, reducing the need for supplemental watering and making it suitable for xeriscaping in dry environments.
    • Aesthetic Appeal: With its large basal leaves and tall yellow flowers, prairie dock adds visual interest to gardens and naturalized areas, providing seasonal beauty and structure.
    • Habitat Restoration: It is often used in prairie restoration projects to help recreate the native tallgrass prairie ecosystem and maintain biodiversity.
    • Low Maintenance: Once established, prairie dock requires minimal care, making it an ideal plant for low-maintenance landscapes and natural gardens.
    • Soil Improvement: The deep roots of prairie dock can help break up compacted soil, improving soil structure and facilitating the growth of other plants.
    • Educational Value: Prairie dock is an example of a native plant that can be used for educational purposes to teach about indigenous flora and sustainable gardening practices.
    • Cultural Significance: It has historical and cultural value as part of the indigenous prairie landscape of North America and can be used to preserve cultural heritage.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Respiratory Aid - Historically used by Native Americans to treat respiratory conditions.
    • Antiseptic - The resin of prairie dock has been used for its antiseptic properties on wounds.
    • Gastrointestinal Relief - Employed as a remedy for gastrointestinal issues.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Insect Repellent: Silphium terebinthinaceum, commonly known as Prairie Dock, has been used as a natural insect repellent due to its aromatic resin that can deter insects.
    • Aromatic Resin: The resin from Prairie Dock has been used in the past as a fragrant additive in perfumes and incense, providing a unique woody scent.
    • Gardening: Prairie Dock's deep roots can help break up compacted soil, making it a useful plant for gardeners looking to improve soil structure.
    • Erosion Control: The extensive root system of Silphium terebinthinaceum can help stabilize soil and prevent erosion on slopes and in areas susceptible to soil loss.
    • Craft Material: The tall, sturdy stems of Prairie Dock can be used in rustic crafts and as a structural component in floral arrangements.
    • Tinder: The dry leaves and stalks of Prairie Dock can be used as tinder for starting fires in survival situations or for controlled burning in prairies.
    • Educational Tool: Due to its interesting ecology and prairie habitat, this plant can be used as an educational tool to teach about native prairie ecosystems and conservation.
    • Livestock Forage: While not a common forage, Prairie Dock can be grazed by livestock, especially in areas where more preferred forage species are scarce.
    • Dye Production: Some Native American tribes used the plant to produce a dye; however, this use is not well documented and it is unclear what color the dye produced would be.
    • Photography Subject: The striking appearance of Prairie Dock, with its tall yellow flowers, makes it a popular subject for nature photographers and artists.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The Prairie Dock is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Prairie Dock is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Extinction and Loss: Silphium, also known as Roosewood, is famously extinct, with its last known use in classical antiquity. It symbolizes the permanent loss of valuable resources due to overexploitation.
    • Rarity and Exclusivity: Due to its historic value and rarity, Roosewood represents that which is unique and highly prized, and the lengths people will go to obtain it.
    • Ancient Medicine: Historically used for its medicinal properties, Roosewood symbolizes healing and the ancient pursuit of medical knowledge.
    • Economic Value: Because it was highly sought for various uses, including as a seasoning and a medicine, Roosewood represents the economic principles of supply and demand.

Every 2-3 weeks
10000 - 20000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Late winter-early spring
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Prairie Dock should be watered deeply, allowing the soil to become fully moist, but then allowing it to dry out somewhat before watering again. Typically, this would mean watering roughly once every week or two, depending on conditions such as heat and soil drainage. During periods of drought, a weekly watering with approximately 1 to 1.5 gallons per plant should suffice to keep the plant healthy without overwatering. It is important not to let the soil remain waterlogged as it might lead to root rot. Moreover, reduce the frequency of watering as the plant becomes established since Prairie Dock is drought-tolerant.

  • sunLight

    Prairie Dock thrives best in full sun conditions, meaning it should receive at least six hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day. The ideal spot for this plant would be an open area away from larger plants or structures that can create shade. Prairie Dock can tolerate some light shade, but its flowering and overall growth will be optimal in full sun.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Prairie Dock is a resilient plant that prefers temperate conditions but can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit and highs up to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature range for thriving growth is generally between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a hardy perennial that can handle temperature fluctuations well within this range.

  • scissorsPruning

    Prairie Dock should be pruned to remove spent flowers and dead foliage, which encourages new growth and improves the plant's overall appearance. Pruning should be done in late fall or early spring before the onset of new growth. Deadheading, or cutting off the faded flowers during the blooming season, can sometimes stimulate a second bloom. It is not necessary to prune this plant frequently; once annually or biannually is typically adequate.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Prairie Dock thrives in a well-draining soil mix with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. A blend of loam, sand, and a little bit of compost is ideal to mimic its natural tallgrass prairie habitat.

  • plantRepotting

    Prairie Dock, being a perennial, does not require frequent repotting. Assess the need to repot every 2-3 years to ensure the soil remains nutritious.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Prairie Dock prefers moderate humidity levels but is quite adaptable and can tolerate a range of humidity conditions typical of temperate regions.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Place in bright, indirect light and ensure the pot has good drainage.

    • Outdoor

      Full sun, well-draining soil; quite tolerant to various conditions.

    • Hardiness zone

      4-9 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Commonly known as the prairie dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum begins its life cycle when a seed germinates in late spring or early summer. It grows a deep taproot and a basal rosette of leaves during its first year, focusing on establishing a strong root system rather than flowering. In subsequent years, the prairie dock develops a tall flowering stalk that can reach up to 10 feet in height, typically blooming from late summer to early fall with bright yellow, sunflower-like heads that are attractive to pollinators. After pollination, the plant sets seeds which are dispersed by wind, allowing new individuals to start their life cycles nearby. Throughout the winter, the above-ground part of the plant dies back, but the root system remains alive, bringing the plant back to life the following spring. This cycle of growth, flowering, seed production, and dormancy continues for many years, as prairie dock is a long-lived perennial.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Late winter-early spring

    • Propogation: The most popular method of propagating Prairie Dock, which is commonly known as Silphium terebinthinaceum, is by seed. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in fall or stratified and sown in spring. For stratification, the seeds need to be mixed with slightly moist sand and stored in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for about 30 to 60 days before planting. This chilling period helps break the seed's dormancy and encourages germination. When sowing, place the seeds just under the soil surface, about a 1/4 inch deep (roughly 6 millimeters), and space them at a distance that allows for their large size at maturity. Germination will often occur within two to three weeks after the last frost when soil temperatures reach around 70°F (21°C). Once established, the plants are quite hardy and will self-seed in suitable conditions.