With the increasing interest in ornamental Sunflowers and several million acres of land
devoted to oil-seed production, the Sunflower is a very popular plant.
The Sunflower is one of only four major crops of global importance native
to the United Sates (blueberry, cranberry and pecan are the other three).
Ironically when the colonists and explorers sent it back to Europe the
Sunflower was treated mainly as a garden flower.
With brown or yellow disks that can grow as much as ten inches in diameter, the
Sunflower had to have a history just as impressive. Incas considered them to be
the image of their sun-god and wore golden disks with its likeness that were later
coveted by Spanish conquerors. The seeds were sacred food for the Plains Indians,
who placed bowls of them on graves to sustain the dead in their afterlife journey.
- From the Greek "helios" (sun) and "anthos" (flower) because the Sunflower
turns its head toward the sun. The specific epithet name annuus means
annual in reference to it completes its life cycle in one year.
- The Incas considered the sunflower to be the image of their sun-god
and wore golden disks with its likeness that were coveted by the Spanish conquerors.
- Sunflower seeds were a sacred food for the Plains Indians, who
placed bowls of seed on graves to sustain the dead in their after
life journey. Seeds are often used for bird feed.
- Many new cultivars have been developed in the past ten years,
with single and double flower forms, bi-colored petals. Some
cultivars are somewhat ethylene sensitive even though most
members of the aster family are not ethylene sensitive.
- These native American flowers were originally grown more
for their usefulness than their beauty, as the oil from Sunflower
Seeds is used for food, soap, paint and cosmetics.
The Compositae or aster family is vast, with over 20,000 species,
and is also one of the most developed families. It was named
Compositae because the flowers are actually a "composite"
of many individual flowers into one head. Hence, when
children pull one "petal" off at a time, saying "she/he loves me,
loves me not", they are actually removing a complete flower, not just a petal.
Daisy-like flowers, 2-10 inches across, with ray petals surrounding
a large brown or yellow disk,stems thick, leafy, hairy, 3-4 feet long,
with single flowers or branched to form sprays of flowers
Year-Round, Peak from June - October