Sunflowers make me happy, whether I see thousands of them blooming in a field, one or two in a vase or a bunch of sunflowers in a painting. Nothing else lifts my mood as glorious, bright yellow sunflowers do. They symbolize loyalty, adoration and longevity, and I want to tell you more about them.
Where do sunflowers come from?
Sunflowers are native plants to North America. Indigenous tribes domesticated them more than 4,500 years ago. They cultivated the multi-headed, bushy plants to produce single stems with larger flowers. Even that long ago they were cultivated for the seeds. The USDA reported in 2014 that sunflowers on 1.7 million acres of the United States, mostly in North Dakota.
What do sunflowers ask of you?
If you plant sunflowers in a spot that would be in full sun for as long as eight hours per day, your reward will be spectacular. In such a sunny spot you will have the pleasure of their blooms throughout summer and possibly into fall.
Why are they called sunflowers?
Sunflowers can indeed track the sun, from there the name. However, you will find that it is mostly the immature buds that turn their heads. If they are in full sun, they turn their heads to follow the sun as it moves from east to west. They return to be ready by dawn to face the sun again. The mature flowers are typically fixed, facing east, although the leaves on the stem continue to do solar tracking. This attribute is called heliotropism.
Sunflowers are happier on the stems in nature than in a vase indoors. However, if you want to cut them, do so in the morning, because they start wilting later in the afternoon. Cut the stems at an angle, and change the water daily. Nevertheless, once cut, they never last long. The French call them “tournesol” meaning “turns with the sun.”
Different species of sunflowers
Extensive hybridizing and crossing have led to about 70 different species. Helianthus is the genus name for sunflowers — Greek for “sun” and “flower.” Today, they come in a range of colors, some bright some pastel, including yellow, mahogany, red, pink, bronze and even white. Some varieties have bi-colors. Their petals, called rays, come in short, long and double rows.
When it comes to sizes, they range 1 to 3 inches in the dwarf varieties, to mammoth varieties that could be as tall as 15 feet. A record 30-feet tall sunflower had been recorded in Germany.
Birds love sunflower seeds as much as we do
The bright yellow petals and brown fuzzy centers are individual little flowers. Each large flower could be a collection of up to 2,000 perfectly arranged tiny flowers. When it comes to the seeds, a large flower can produce from 1,000 to 2,000 seeds. If you pick flowers to put in a vase, hang them outside once they have wilted. Birds love sunflower seeds, and the wilted flower makes a natural bird feeder, and you can see how to hang it here. You can even harvest and dry the sunflower seeds yourself. Sunflowers grow so easily, you might even have some sprouting where the birds have dropped seeds.
In conclusion — an interesting note
About 8 million sunflowers were planted in Fukushima, Japan after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Japanese scientists continue research and testing to show how the sunflowers extract the radioactivity from ponds that were contaminated.