During late summer and early autumn, this plant seems to magically appear from the greenery with a bounty of bright sunflowerlike blossoms. The leaves are coarse and hairy. The stem is almost woody. The plant can grow to more than 8 feet tall.
The term "sunchoke" is sometimes applied to the Jerusalem artichoke and is realistically more appropriate, because this plant is neither an artichoke nor is it from Jerusalem. It is a member of the sunflower family.
Its tubers are safe to eat either raw or cooked. The tubers growing from the roots of this plant may look similar to carrots in shape, taste similar to an artichoke, and when steamed may have the consistency of potatoes. This plant is easy to grow and needs little or no attention.
As for me, I think the best use of this vigorous plant is to take a nice photo of its beautiful flower and hang the image on a wall.
Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.