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September 5, 2013

Fun Flower Facts

All About Sunflowers

September 5, 2013
Towering Sunflower in a Field

Towering Sunflower in a FieldWith its strong stature, its giant round shape and its brilliant yellow color, the sunflower truly looks like a droplet of golden sun. It’s no wonder its proper name, Helianthus anuus, comes from the Greek words “helios” (or “sun”) and “anthos” (or “flower”). But that’s not the only connection this luminous flower shares with its namesake star. As the sun glides across the sky during the day, sunflowers are known to turn their heads and follow the movement of the sun. This is known as “heliotropism.” Want to learn more about what makes these celestial flowers really special? Find out everything you need to know about sunflowers, right here!

Field of SunflowersHistory of Sunflowers

The wild sunflower is actually native to North America. In fact, the bloom was domesticated by Native American and Mexican tribes as early as 3,000 B.C. and was used as food, dye, decoration, medicine, building material and more. Spanish explorers then introduced the flower to Europe in the 1500s, where it became widely popular as a decorative ornament. By 1769, Europeans began to cultivate sunflowers and their seeds for oil production, a practice that eventually became widespread in Russia. There were almost 2 million acres of sunflowers growing in Russia by the early 19th century.

Sunflower seeds made their way from Russia to the United States by the late 19th century, most likely as a result of Russian immigrants traveling to the U.S. American company catalogues referred to the seeds as “Mammoth Russian” seeds—a name that stuck around for more than 100 years. With the sunflower finally returning to its American roots, growers in the United States put the finishing touches on the plant’s generics and began commercially using the flower, its seeds and its oil. With growing demand for sunflower oil throughout Europe, more than 5 million acres of the bloom were grown in the U.S. by the 1970s, making our country one of the biggest exporters of the product. That’s no longer the case today, since Europe now depends on its own sunflower oil production.

Warm Sunset Party PackTypes of Sunflowers

There are more than 60 different kinds of sunflowers around the world that come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and range in color from luminous yellow to fiery red. Here’s just a sampling of popular sunflower types:

  • American Giant
  • Arnika
  • Autumn Beauty
  • Aztec Sun
  • Black Oil
  • Chianti Hybrid
  • Claret
  • Dwarf Sunspot
  • Evening Sun
  • Florenza
  • Giant Primrose
  • Gullick’s Variety
  • Indian Blanket Hybrid
  • Irish Eyes
  • Italian White
  • Kong Hybrid
  • Large Grey Stripe
  • Lemon Queen
  • Loddon Gold

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