Sunflower facts and fun come just at the time of year when our sunflowers are setting seeds and coming to a close. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers to grow here on the farm. A few sunflower facts and a little sunflower fun!
- The scientific name of sunflower is Helianthus – heli means sun and anthus means flower. Simple, right?
- In the language of flowers, where flowers are given symbolic meaning, sunflowers represent faithfulness and loyalty.
- Sunflowers do indeed ‘follow the sun’ as the flower heads develop. Once they bloom, the flower continues to face one direction – face to the sun.
- Specialized cells in the sunflower’s stem help it turn towards the light. These cells are photo, or light, sensitive.
- Sunflower oil can be used as everything from a cooking oil to a hair conditioner and more. It has dozens of known uses.
The arrangement of seeds is unique…
- Sunflowers themselves are actually composed of many “flowers” in the center; the petals ring the seed-bearing cluster of flowers.
- The arrangement of seeds inside the central face of the sunflower is extremely useful for scientists studying solar energy. In fact, by copying this arrangement, they have been able to improve the efficiency of solar collectors.
- This pattern of interconnecting spirals inside the seed head orient oriented towards the next cluster at an angle that is exactly 137.5 degrees. Always. That boggles my mind. How do the plants do this?
Where sunflowers are found…
- Sunflower is the state flower of Kansas, the national flower of the Ukraine, and a very popular flower worldwide.
- It is grown in almost every country of the world with Russia and the United States two of the leaders.
- Sunflowers are native to North America.
What sunflowers do…
- Sunflowers can actually soak up radiation. They are being used near the Fukushima reactor site in Japan to clean the soil of radioactive particles.
- They can also remove lead, arsenic, and uranium from the soil.
- Native Americans used sunflowers for food and cooking oil.
- Many bird species rely upon sunflower seeds for energy and food.
- Sunflowers can grow 8 to 12 feet tall in just six months.
- The tallest sunflower on record is 27 feet, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. It was grown in Germany.
- There are over 60 varieties of sunflowers including giant ones and miniature ones.
- Sunflowers come in many colors, but their seeds are always black or striped – two colors.
- The sunflower’s design makes it easy for birds to eat the seeds, thus dispersing them and helping the next generation of sunflower to grow.
I love sunflowers and plant them in the raised bed vegetable garden as well as outside the windows of my husband’s office. We love the goldfinches that visit to enjoy the seeds.
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This post was written in July 2018. It was updated on September 7, 2021 with improved readability, new images, improved links, better formatting, and cleaner text.
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.