Sense of Direction
While the nickname "rosinweed" has an obvious origin, the name "compass plant" might not seem to make much sense with this flower at first. This name derives from the discovery that the leaves on the plant almost always point in the North-South direction (the key words are "almost always" - so don't get rid of your orienteering tools just yet). Once early settlers on the central plains realized this, they were able to use the plants as a guide to help them know where they were going - just like a compass!
|Compass Plant at the|
Aldo Leopold Nature Center
These plants have a long history in North America, being used as herbal medicines and teas by the Native Americans, and then as compasses by American settlers. No wonder Aldo Leopold was so amazed by these resilient plants! He appreciated these plants as a symbol of Wisconsin's native prairie, and you can enjoy these beauties too. Go exploring in a nearby grassland, prairie, or park. See if their leaves really can point you in the right direction. The Aldo Leopold Nature Center is a great place to begin your quest - their prairie is blooming full of compass plants these days - or take a walk through the UW Arboretum or Olbrich Botanical Gardens for a more extensive feel of the native prairie plants we have here in Wisconsin.