flower power

Helianthus annuus is far more than something pretty to look at, it also provides food for small organisms as well as a variety of products to humans.  Not only does it create its own food through photosynthesis but also brings in a profit to commercial sunflower farmers.  With so much variety, the common sunflower really isn't so common...


Sunflower oil is the most valuable part of the sunflower.  Sunflower seeds contain 25-32% oil.  Sunflower oil is light yellow in color and useful as salad dressing or in cooking.  It can also contribute to the manufacturing of margarine when hydrogenated.


Russia is the world’s largest producer of sunflower oil, followed by Argentina, and then the US.  Most North American production is in the Great Plains especially in the Dakotas and Minnesota.Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The wild sunflower is considered a noxious weed in 46 states.


Sunflowers typically grow 5 to 10 feet tall!  Although there are extremes in dwarf varieties which only grow 1-3 feet tall and on the other end mammoth varieties which can grow to 15 feet tall and have heads which measure 12 inches in diameter.


Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsVincent Van Gogh's painting "Vase with Twelve Sunflowers" captures the life changes of a sunflower, from brilliant yellow during full bloom to the wilting brown of death.  This cycle of life has inspired numerous renditions by moved artists.