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The name "compass plant" derives from the behavior of its leaves standing upright with their edges set north-south. The leaves are vertical to enable them to better withstand the hot summer sun.
Although it looks like a sunflower, it is very different - the ray flowers of compass plant produces seeds, while in sunflowers the disk flowers produce the seeds.
The taproot will go down as much as 10 feet.
When wounded, compass plant exudes a resinous material that was used by Native Americans as a chewing gum.
The Pawnee, Ponca, Dakota and Omaha burned the dried roots to ward off lightening during storms. Some tribes believed that lightening occurred more frequently where compass plant grew, and would not camp there.