Resources > Wildflower of the Year > Plains Coreopsis

2017 Kansas Wildflower of the Year

Plains Coreopsis — Coreopsis tinctoria

About Plains Coreopsis

Plains Coreopsis - field
Plains Coreopsis - single
Plains coreopsis photos
by Michael Haddock

Plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) is the Kansas Native Plant Society 2017 Wildflower of the Year (WOY). Plains coreopsis is 2 to 4 feet tall with many yellow and reddish brown terminal flowers blooming June through September. Leaves are divided, narrowly linear and oppositely arranged on the stem. This species is found in damp disturbed areas, roadside ditches and low, sandy to silty mixed grass prairies and floodplains statewide. Plains coreopsis is in the Asteraceae or sunflower family.

Plains coreopsis is the first annual species the plant resources committee has chosen for WOY. It is a cosmopolitan plant existing throughout the state that can produce stunning displays of color along roadsides.

It is also easy to grow in gardens from seed. The Latin word tinctoria means “to impart color” and flowers can be cut and soaked to produce a colorful dye.

For more photos and a detailed description of Coreopsis tinctoria, visit

Plains Coreopsis Species Account

The following species account comes from Growing Native Wildflowers by Harder and Platt, 1997. page 91.5.

Common Name

Plains Coreopsis

Plains Coreopsis - flower sketch

Scientific Name

Coreopsis tinctoria

Derivation of Names

“Coreopsis” (from Greek) appearance of a bug, because the achenes of some species were thought to resemble ticks; “tinctoria” (from Latin) pertaining to dyeing.

Other Common Names

Common tickseed, golden coreopsis, calliopsis (name used in the horticultural trade).


Sunflower or composite family (Asteraceae). This species can be recognized as a composite by the typical inflorescence, the flower head. It is a member of the sunflower tribe.

Ornamental Characteristics

The finely divided foliage and small yellow flower heads with reddish centers are very attractive. Plains coreopsis grows from 1 ½ to 3 feet tall. Foliage is dark green and smooth, and smells like the herb, dill. Leaves are divided into narrow linear segments. Blooming occurs from mid-June to the end of August, or into the fall if moisture is sufficient. The numerous flower heads, ½ to 1 inch across, are borne on short stalks (peduncles) arising from the axils of leaves near the ends of branches. The outer “petals” (ray flowers) are 3-toothed at their tips and are yellow with a reddish-brown spot at the base. The disc flowers on the small convex disc on the center of the flower head are reddish-brown. Plains coreopsis lasts well as a cut flower.

Growth Characteristics and Management

Plains coreopsis may behave as an annual or a biennial. It has a single main stem with many branches. Leaves are opposite in their arrangement on the stem. Roots are short and branched. It volunteers from seed but cannot compete well in a perennial grassland. Plants started in the spring may bloom the first season and die, or they may rather form a basal rosette of leaves the first season and bloom in the second season.


Plains coreopsis is an important dye plant, being the source of yellow reddish and brown dyes.

Seeds and Fruits

Plains Coreopsis - seed sketch

The “seed” (fruit) is a small black elongate achene without wings, spines or bristles, approximately 1/8 inch in length. These “seeds” can be easily separated from the small dry head. Dry seed heads may be found on plants from late July into the fall. They should be collected before the achenes fall out of the head.

Seed Germination

Plains coreopsis seeds germinate well without any pretreatment.

Growing Seedlings

Plants can be easily grown by sowing seed on site. To grow transplants, seeds should be sown in a flat and seedlings then transferred into pots.

The pair of small cotyledons on the seedling are borne on stalks as long as or longer than the cotyledon. The cotyledon is elongate, pointed at both ends, and approximately twice as long as wide. The true leaves arise basally as pairs and are smooth and hairless, and similar in appearance to the cotyledons. The edges and midrib may be slightly purplish. The first leaves are simple and divided leaves do not develop until later.

Plains Coreopsis - seedling and true leaves sketch

Geographic Range

Plains coreopsis is commonly found in the eastern two-thirds of Kansas with a scattered distribution in the western third. It is widely distributed in the Plains region.


Plains coreopsis is found most commonly on moist or seasonally wet sites, along roadsides, in ditches and in grasslands and fields. It is more common on disturbed ground.