A summer field of sunflowers is an object of everyone’s fascination. The bright color, solar disk-like shape, and radiant cheerful energy make sunflowers one of the most Instagrammable plants ever. But they are more than just cute blooms to serve as an astonishing background for your next social media post. Sunflowers are also valued for their oil-rich seeds that are used in the production of food and cosmetics. Check out these 20 amazing facts about sunflowers to expand your world knowledge.
1. Not All Sunflowers Are Yellow
Sunflowers are universally believed to be vividly yellow. However, the possibilities of a sunflower’s pigment are not that limited. Some varieties exhibit other lovely shades including red, brown, bi-colored, and even purple!
When we speak about sunflower colors, the first association to hit the mind is yellow. Yellow species of this darling encompass Elegance, American Giant, and Zohar. These sunflower types are blessed with a quintessentially yellow hue, a mere look at which is enough to put a smile on your face. The American Giant variety can reach up to 14 feet tall, and their heads can be as large as 12 inches wide. It is quite a record among sunflowers because other varieties normally grow only up to 12 inches in height.
The main characteristic of red sunflowers is saturated crimson petals crowning a dark brown center. A bunch of red sunflowers is a true sight to behold. These cuties can grow up to 6 feet tall, with quite large (5-6 inches wide) blooms. Each plant can bear 5 gorgeous red flowers. Such sunflowers are easy to cultivate, too. They easily grow from fresh seeds and require little TLC to produce beautiful and strong blooms. They will either not demand special soil conditions. Red sunflowers make a striking addition to floral arrangements, and also look mighty fine in single-flower variety bouquets.
The Chianti Hybrid is known to produce those mesmerizing purple sunflowers. Along with a charming color that is traditionally associated with royalty, this variety has another interesting peculiarity: the absence of pollen. For this reason, Chianti Hybrid sunflowers are great floral gifts for those suffering from allergies.
2. Sunflowers Inspired Not Only Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh is a renowned painter who presented the world with many incredibly beautiful and meaningful artworks. But the maestro is also famed for his penchant for sunflowers, and this flower is portrayed in many of his legendary paintings. Still, Vincent van Gogh is not the only worshiper of sunflowers, and many other famous artists also got inspiration from these natural babies.
Diego Rivera included sunflowers in several of his paintings. Perhaps, the most recognized one is “Muchacha Con Girasoles.” This masterpiece displays a girl arranging a vase of sunflowers. Both Van Gogh and Diego Rivera frequently depicted peasant life and images of flowers in their artworks.
The painting style of Alfred Gockel revolves around the use of primary colors with deep accents. The artist’s one of the most successful works is called "Giant Sunflower". By implementing primary colors, Gockel managed to achieve the fabulous vividness of the flower, so it looks like a true thing. Many connoisseurs of art consider this painting one-of-a-kind.
The career of Paul Gauguin started with his artwork titled "Vincent van Gogh Painting Sunflowers". The piece itself is fictional, as Gauguin was a small child when Van Gogh was creating his famous picture of sunflowers. Gauguin relied on his imagination to inspire this work.
3. Sunflowers Are Associated with Apollo
Sunflowers have a slew of symbols and meanings. The legend says that the bloom is even connected with Apollo, the Greek deity of the Sun.
The sunflower's name originates from its ability to turn to face the sun. Its genus, Helianthus, comes from two Greek words "helios" meaning sun, and "anthos" meaning flower.
The ancient Greek legend of Apollo and Clytie is one of the explanations for why sunflowers tend to follow the sun. In this myth, the deity Clytie was seriously in love with Apollo. At first, Apollo reciprocated her feelings, but soon he grew fond of Leucothoe, a princess of Persia. Full of jealousy, Clytie told Leucothoe’s father about that relationship, and he punished his daughter by burying her alive.
In revenge, Apollo turned Clytie into a flower. But even being a flower, she still adores him and would spend her life watching him as he travels across the sky. This is how it came that sunflowers track the solar motion.
4. Sunflowers Differ By Height
Sunflowers regularly fall into two major categories: tall and dwarf. While many of us believe that these blooms are primarily lengthy and sturdy, there are also teeny-tiny varieties that barely reach two feet in height.
These guys are generally towering, vivaciously yellow, and stout. As a rule, tall sunflowers can grow up to 16 feet and even higher, if conditions are favorable. The popular varieties of tall sunflowers include Skyscraper, Sunforest Mix, and Russian Mammoth. These robust fellows are very attractive for birds as they offer plenty of seeds.
Dwarf sunflowers usually grow in clusters and are popular staples in home gardens and household pots. These beauties are classified as dwarfs because they usually do not reach more than 3 feet in height. Dwarf sunflower varieties comprise Little Becka, Suntastic Yellow, and Pacino. What dwarf and tall flowers have in common is that they both feel happy in full sunlight.
5. Immature Sunflowers Follow the Sun
The eye-popping truth about young sunflowers is that they display a behavior known as heliotropism, or a tendency to turn to the sun while it is making its journey through the sky. Sunflower heads face east in the morning and track the solar motion as our planet spins throughout the day. In a study conducted by ScienceMag, researchers discovered that these blooms have circadian rhythms that support this habit. The face of a young plant responds to the sun movement from sunrise to sunset every day and repeats this cycle until the flower matures.
6. Mature Sunflowers Seek East
As sunflowers get mature, their ability to demonstrate heliotropism gradually disappears. But it never means there is something wrong with the flowers. A ScienceMag study shows that adult lowers face east for several reasons:
· Sunflowers are able to attract much more pollinators because they warm up faster than west-facing plants.
· The eastward direction allows sunflowers to receive more sunlight, which eventually results in greater production of seeds.
7. Sunflower Oil Is Anti-Inflammatory
The plant is more than just a bright pretty face. Indeed, sunflower oil has many benefits. Along with being deliciously tasty, the oil also has an anti-inflammatory quality. Such ability stems from the content of linoleic acid that can transform into arachidonic acid. Both are fatty acids that help the skin to quickly recover after cuts, burns, and irritations.
8. Sunflower Seed Is Produced in Two Ways
Sunflower seeds are a popular snack that can keep your fingers busy with shelling for a long while. As you are enjoying pepper or salt-flavored munchies, get to know that these seeds can be oilseed or non-oilseed.
Sunflowers are often farmed for exactly the oilseed production. The shells of oilseeds are enclosed in hard black shells. Black oilseeds are a common bird food because they are easy to crack and contain much nutritious fat. Such flowers are usually grown for oil extraction; therefore, it is unlikely that you will find black oilseeds packaged as a snack.
Non-oil sunflower seeds are produced for food. Such a seed is protected by a striped shell. Non-oil seeds grow on the flower part of a sunflower plant. Sunflower seeds are known to be rich in vitamin E and selenium, which assist in preventing chronic diseases.
9. Sunflower Oils Can Beat High Cholesterol
According to the American Heart Association research, the consumption of polyunsaturated fats can decrease high cholesterol levels. Sunflower seed oil is rich in high polyunsaturated fat and presents a great alternative to butter. More than that, such oil is also very beneficial for wellness. Polyunsaturated fats are the sources of long-chain fatty acids, which are essential substances for human health and beauty.
The sunflower is native to North America and is now harvested all over the world. The Journal of the University of Missouri considers North Dakota the leader in sunflower production across the nation. In order for a sunflower to thrive, various factors must be considered, including temperature, sunlight, soil, and water.
To be perky, a sunflower plant requires at least six hours of direct sunlight per day with the soil pH varying from 6 to 7.5. Air temperatures ranging from low to high 70 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal for sunflower health. Finally, mature flowers can easily withstand extreme heat because they are drought-resistant.
10. Sunbutter Can Be Produced from Sunflower Seeds
We all know peanut and almond varieties of butter, but what about sunbutter made from sunflower seeds? If you are allergic to nuts, sunflower butter can be included in your diet as a great substitution for nut butter. More than that, sunbutter has a remarkably reduced content of saturated fat than its peanut counterpart, according to the USDA. Sunflower butter contains more minerals than both peanut and almond peers.
11. A Sunflower's Head Consists of Thousands of Individual Flowers
The head of the sunflower plant actually presents a combination of two thousand miniature flowers. In fact, the big impressive petals around the edge of the head are individual flowers that can’t transform into seeds. These fake petals are titled ray florets.
12. The Sunflower Has Therapeutic Properties
A tea made from sunflower leaves is a natural alternative for treating high fever. Crushed sunflower leaves are also used as a remedy for ulcers, swelling, spider bites, and snake bites. Besides that, sunflower flower tea is useful in the treatment of malaria and lung diseases.
13. Sunflowers Were First Cultivated for Food
Native Americans are known to have used the sunflower as a source of food. Sunflower cultivation is suggested to have begun over 8,000 years ago, according to a University of Arizona study. Some scientists even believe that mankind was cultivating sunflowers long before corn and beans. Since then, sunflower cultivation has expanded beyond food. Sunflower plants are used to neutralize toxins, for example. After the horrific tsunami that destroyed the reactors at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, millions of sunflowers were planted as a measure to soak up the nuclear radiation. Today, sunflowers also inspire people to design fashion, art, and home decor.
14. Sunflowers Are Autogamous Plants
Sunflowers are commonly pollinated by attracting bees, which carry the pollen they create on the stigma. But if the pollen does not fall on the stigma, the sunflower plant can self-pollinate for reproduction. The stigma can turn around to reach its own pollen. A curious fact about these sunny flowers is that self-pollinated seeds will grow to be identical to the original plant.
15. Sunflowers Can Be Cuddly
Not all sunflowers look like big flat plates with vivid rims. Instead, there are some varieties that resemble a stuffed toy to cuddle all night long. Such sunflower species is called Teddy Bear Sunflower.
Teddy Bear Sunflowers
Teddy Bear sunflowers are bushy and look like stuffed spheres. This species of sunflower produces double flowers, giving them a full and fluffy head like a bear toy. Their unusual anatomy helped the plant to receive an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2015. In addition, cute Teddy Bear sunflowers are often used to decorate salads or cakes.
16. Sunflowers Demand Much Light and Room
Sunflowers not only look like the sun, they heavily rely on it. To grow their best, the flowers need to be exposed to direct sun beams for about six to eight hours a day, but more is even better. They can grow up to 16 feet tall, although many varieties have been bred to grow at different heights. Flowers planted too close together will compete against each other and will not bloom to their full potential.
17. They Can Be Reused As Scrubbing Pads
Along with providing nutritious seeds for humans and wildlife, sunflowers are useful for a number of purposes. Even when deprived of seeds, the sunflower can still do some service! Believe it or not, the sunflower head can be used as a disposable scrubbing pad. When your home scrubbing tools cannot cut it, the sunflower head is strong enough to handle the task.
18. Harvest Them in The Morning For A Longer Vase-Life
If you are planning to cut a few sunflower stems to make a dramatic display, do so in the morning. Harvesting flowers during the afternoon may result in flower wilting.
19. Sunflowers Can Be Scary
Some people are seriously afraid of sunflowers. Although these pretty floral faces are ultimate symbols of optimism, joy, and hope, sometimes they make people experience irrational fear. The phobia of sunflowers is called Helianthophobia, and individuals suffering from it cannot bear the flower’s look, smell, or even a single thought of a sunflower.
20. They Can Last Long When Cut
A vase filled with sunflowers will enhance the interior with its bubbly beauty. Cut blooms can last up to 12 days. Plenty of care will even prolong their vase life – when properly hydrated, a sunflower can easily support its heavy head.
It is clear to see that sunflowers are not just aesthetically pleasing and agriculturally delightful. They are much more than meets the eye! Whether in your yard, in your vase, or on your table, sunflowers are cool in every respect.