As its name suggests, the Sunflower is bright like the Sun and is known to be the epitome of positivity – so it’s no coincidence that the famous pop song ‘Sunflower’ by Post Malone featuring Swae Lee is such a cheerful and upbeat tune! In this read, you’ll get to learn all about this sunny bloom such as its origins, uses & benefits, and everything under the Sun-flower.
The Origin of Sunflowers
The Sunflower’s botanical name, Helianthus annuus, was derived from the Greek words ‘Helios’ meaning Sun and ‘anthos’, meaning flower. Why it was given that name is a dead giveaway – it’s a huge flower with bright yellow petals, with a center that’s shaped like the Sun.
The Sunflower was first found in the Americas during 1,000 B.C and was grown as a source of food for many centuries. Word of this flower’s beauty and ability to provide sustenance eventually spread throughout the globe, making it one of the world’s most well-known flowers.
What makes Sunflowers unique?
It’s not surprising that artists throughout all history would want to encapsulate the unique magnificence of the Sunflower in their artwork. One such example would be the famous Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, and his iconic series of Sunflower paintings – which held a special significance for him as they represented the feeling of ‘gratitude’.
Which begs the question, what IS unique about these flowers? Well, one unique thing about Sunflowers is their ability to provide energy via sustenance or just by radiating positivity, as the Sun would with heat and light.
The Sunflower is still widely recognised today and adored by many for its cheery disposition. Try basking in the presence of some Sunflowers when you get the chance, and experience the same positive warmth and impact they share with the Sun!
Symbolism of Sunflowers
Not only are Sunflowers an accurate representation of happiness, warmth, and everything nice – but they also symbolise adoration, loyalty, and longevity. If you know someone who’s going through a tough time and would like to brighten up their day, this is the perfect choice of flower for them.
Sunflowers in Greek Mythology
The Sunflower also happens to be related to Apollo, God of the Sun. It’s said that he was in love with a water nymph, Clytie until he came across a princess named Leucothoe and was awestruck by her beauty. Clytie had the misfortune of catching the two of them together during one of their late-night escapades. As a result, jealousy and heartbreak drove her to cause Leucothoe’s demise. Apollo, in grief over the death of his newfound lover, turned Clytie into a Sunflower so he wouldn’t have to look at her ever again. Despite this, she still loved him in her flower form and would spend every waking moment watching him move the Sun across the sky in his chariot – which explains why Sunflowers turn towards the Sun. What a tale of woe!
Uses and Benefits of Sunflower Seeds
Sunflowers are not just for admiring, their seeds can also be cultivated and used for a variety of benefits as well! There are two types of seed production – oilseed and non-oilseed. Oilseeds are farmed for their oil while non-oil seeds are produced for direct human consumption – both of which have plenty of health benefits and medicinal properties. Let’s take a look at some of them.
- Back in the day, Sunflower seeds were used for meal (grain) and oil. The other parts of the flower were used for dye or medicine – as you can see, nothing went to waste. The extraction of seed oil was eventually commercialised and is now one of the main reasons why flower farmers grow them.
- Sunflower oils are used in cooking and can reduce cholesterol levels due to their high concentration of polyunsaturated fat.
- If you’re looking for a guilt-free snack, Sunflower seeds are packed with nutrients that improve heart health and support the immune system. Did we mention how tasty they are? Snack away!
- To achieve that sunny glow, switch up your skincare routine and incorporate products containing Sunflower oil. They’re non-comedogenic – meaning they won’t clog your pores and are rich in antioxidants. They also contain linoleic acid which aids in keeping your skin moisturised.
- Sunflower oil is used in topical medication for its anti-inflammatory effect and is suitable for dry, sensitive skin and even conditions like eczema.
While Sunflower seeds are known to be consumable, kindly refrain from consuming any flowers (or seeds) that you can find in florists, nurseries, or plant and garden centers. In most of these cases, the flowers used are not grown for edible consumption and have been treated with pesticides.
Fun facts and everything under the Sun
- Did the picture above catch your eye? No, it’s not a cuddly stuffed toy… but a cuddly flower! It’s a sphere-shaped dwarf variant called the Teddy Bear Sunflower. It produces double blooms, which explains their fluffiness, and is usually used as a garnish for salads or cake decor.
- News alert: Not all Sunflowers are yellow. They come in red and purple too, such as the Chianti Hybrid!
- According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest Sunflower stands at over 30 feet (9.17m)! That’s greater than the average height of a giraffe!
- When you hold a Sunflower, you’re also holding thousands of other tiny flowers. This is because the disc florets (the centers of the bloom) where seeds develop are actually individual flowers. Talk about floral-ception!
- ‘Tournesol’ is the French translation for Sunflower which means to ‘turn with the Sun’. This stems from the young Sunflowers’ habit of tracking the Sun, which is scientifically referred to as heliotropism. On the other hand, mature Sunflowers have heavier heads and will therefore stay facing east.
- A single stalk of Sunflower carries as many as 1000 – 2000 seeds!
Planting and Growing Sunflowers
Sunflowers are relatively fast growers. They can stretch up to 12 feet (3.66m) tall in a matter of only 3 months. With the appropriate conditions, these towering and divine plants mature approximately 70 to 100 days after planting. Alternatively, gardeners can also grow their miniature version, the dwarf Sunflower. Dwarf Sunflowers grow well in small spaces, up to 1 – 3 feet (30 – 91cm) tall, and come in yellow, orange, pink, and reddish tones.
The Not So Sunny Side of Sunflowers
But it’s not all sunshine and butterflies growing Sunflowers – the downside is they’re allelopathic, which means they give off toxins from every part of them that stunt the growth of nearby plants or worse, kill them. It’s a system that protects the plant and its seedlings to ensure it can return the following year without having to compete for resources.
This isn’t the most ideal scenario for gardeners who wish to grow a variety of plants in a confined space.
Keeping your cut Sunflowers as Sunny as Possible
Like other blooms, once Sunflowers are cut, they require more delicate care. If properly tended to, they can last approximately six to twelve days once they’ve been cut. Preserve your Sunflowers’ brilliance by following our Flower Care Guide!
And voilà! A simple and quick crash course on the basics of Sunflowers sprinkled with some fun facts and tips. If the weather’s been real gloomy lately or you know someone in need of cheering up, grab a couple of these “happy” flowers, watch the skies clear up, and smiles start to form.
If you enjoyed this read, you may wish to check out our Flower Dictionary for more flower fun facts.