The compass plant, a native of the North American midwest, has large leaves cut into several lobes. The leaves tend to line up edgewise in a north-south direction, like a compass. Early travellers across the prairies used this plant to find out the directions, so another name for it is pilotweed. The plant itself aligns its leaves in this way to escape the strong midday sun and receive the gentler early morning and late after-noon sunlight instead.
It is easy to mistake the compass plant’s sunny yellow blossoms for sunflowers, but there are differences. The thick, hairy stem contains a sap or rosin. Also, the seeds are not contained in the flat disk at the centre like in the sunflower.
The compass plant grows to a great height — around 1.5 to 3 metres tall.