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21 Enchanting & Fascinating Facts about Super Sunflowers 

21 Fascinating Facts about Super Sunflowers

Sunflowers are some of the most dramatic and striking plants around. The crowning glory of any garden and a welcome sight in wildflower meadows, they signify the arrival of the long summer months, evoking positivity and warmth with their vivid sun-like appearance. But these fabulous flowers have much more to offer than their cheerful appearance might initially suggest. Here are 21 surprising and fascinating facts about sunflowers!

Fascinating Facts about Sunflowers


Sunflowers are some of the most dramatic and striking plants around. The crowning glory of any garden and a welcome sight in wildflower meadows, they signify the arrival of the long summer months, evoking positivity and warmth with their vivid sun-like appearance. But these fabulous flowers have much more to offer than their cheerful appearance might initially suggest. Here are 21 surprising and fascinating facts about sunflowers!

  1. The sunflower genus contains around 70 species of flowering annuals and perennials which belong to the daisy family, Asteraceae. The Latin name for sunflowers, Helianthus is derived from the ancient Greek, helios, meaning sun, and anthos, meaning flower, a fitting moniker given how closely sunflowers resemble the blazing summer sun. 
  2. Perhaps one of the most easily recognisable plants, sunflowers are characterised by their many ray-like petals encircling large fuzzy black-brown heads. The external petals are often yellow but can range in colour from white to red to purple. The fuzzy heads are made up of many thousands of tiny flowers, each capable of developing into seeds. 
  3. The seeds of the sunflower head are arranged in a mathematically precise concentric spiral. Mathematicians studying plants have discovered that this spiral pattern displayed by sunflowers naturally follows the Fibonacci sequence of mathematical rule! 
  4. Sunflowers are well known for their impressive height. The tallest sunflower ever grown reached a towering 30 feet and one inch tall! Typically though, sunflowers reach maturity at between three and ten feet tall. They can grow up to 2.5 inches each week during the summer growing season. 
  5. Sunflowers attract a wide variety of wildlife, from bees who collect their pollen and drink their nectar, to birds who like to snack on their seeds. They are a perfect choice for gardeners searching for a low-maintenance plant to brighten up a gloomy garden, whilst also supporting the local ecosystem. facts about sunflower
  6. Native to Central, South, and North America, sunflowers thrive in hot, dry conditions with plenty of sunshine and fertile soil. They grow tallest when planted straight into the ground, but can also be grown successfully in pots. Sunflowers are self-seeding, so can spread easily, just as long as the birds don’t steal the seeds before they have a chance to drop to the ground in autumn! 
  7. The fear of sunflowers is known as Helianthophobia. Although rare, some people find the colossal height and imposing blooms of sunflowers to be unnerving. Others find the many minuscule seed heads make for uncomfortable viewing. This is often linked to a fear of repetitive protrusions or holes, known as trypophobia. 
  8. Sunflowers are heliotropic. They rotate to follow the sun’s trajectory across the sky from sunrise to sunset. This means that sunflowers have a natural circadian rhythm, like humans, responding to external stimuli following a 24-hour cycle. When they reach maturity, sunflowers tend to become more static, and generally face towards the East. The reason for heliotropism is to maximise the photosynthesising potential for the plant, allowing helianthus to grow so tall.
  9. In Greek mythology, the legend of the heliotropic sunflower tells of the maiden Clytie who fell desperately in love with the Sun God Apollo. After a short romance, Apollo rejected her for a nymph. Clytie descended into a fit of rage and told the nymph’s father about his daughter’s affair with Apollo. Incensed, the nymph’s father buried his daughter under the sand so that she would never feel the sun’s warmth again. But Apollo, who was besotted by the nymph, spurned Clytie and blamed her for the death of his beloved nymph. In desperation, Clytie refused to eat, and drank only the first-morning dew as she watched Apollo soar through the sky on his chariot. After nine days and nine nights, she transformed into a sunflower. The sunflower Clytie would remain fixated on her beloved Sun God in the sky for all eternity. 
  10. Sunflowers have been cultivated by humans in The Americas for millennia, predating the domestication of the traditional ‘three sisters’ crops of corn, beans, and squash. Domesticated sunflower seeds dating back to 3000 BCE have been discovered by archaeologists in Central America. Sunflowers facts
  11. Early Native American tribes had myriad uses for the sunflower. The seeds were used to make various foods, from bread to oils, whilst the petals were used to make textile dyes and body paints. Medicinally, tribes used sunflowers to make sunscreens, ointments for snakebites or wounds, and even antimalarial treatments. The sturdy stems were often used as construction materials. 
  12. The first commercial cultivation of sunflowers began in Russia in the 18th Century. It is now estimated that the global commercial market value of sunflowers is around 20 billion USD annually, with Russia and Ukraine being the world’s largest commercial producers and exporters of sunflower products. There is even a prestigious award given for outstanding work within the industry. The V.S. Pustovoit Award is the highest honour given to those who have made notable or groundbreaking discoveries in the advancement of sunflower cultivation. 
  13. Sunflower seeds are a particularly good source of vitamins A, B, D, and E, making them a healthy and tasty snack. Sunflower oil, derived from the seeds, is a natural anti-oxidant and contains beneficial fatty acids which can lower cholesterol, making it a healthy oil for cooking.
  14. Sunflowers feature prominently in folklore and magick practices. It is said that if you wish to know the truth about something, you should pick a sunflower and sleep with it under your pillow, and the truth will reveal itself to you before sunset the following day. Traditional magick practices follow that lacing someone’s food or drink with sunflower oil will ensure their loyalty to you, replicating the sunflower’s loyalty to the sun. The sunflower is also associated with fertility, owing to its likeness to the sun which gives life to all living beings. Eating sunflower seeds, bathing with sunflower petals, or wearing necklaces or crowns formed of sunflowers are thought to influence conception in some pagan rituals. 
  15. The bright colours of sunflowers are associated with happiness and positivity and are thought to ease feelings of grief and depression. In Chinese culture, sunflowers symbolise luck, vitality, happiness, and long life. Because of their devotion to the sun, sunflowers symbolise loyalty, fidelity, and adoration, and the strong stems represent strong relationships, so are traditionally given as gifts to couples celebrating their third wedding anniversary in Western cultures. facts about sunflowers
  16. The ancient Maya and Inca civilisations believed the sunflower to be sacred because it resembled the sun God that they worshipped. Incan priestesses wore crowns adorned with sunflowers, and they brought sunflowers to their temples for worship. To ancient Native Americans, the sunflower symbolised bountiful harvests. 
  17. After the nuclear disasters at both Chernobyl and Fukushima, millions of helianthus were planted within the exclusion zones, because of their ability to extract radioactive waste from the environment in a process known as phytoremediation. The sunflowers absorb toxins from the soil which is safely stored within their biomass. 
  18. In 17th Century France, King Louis XIV declared himself the Sun King to illustrate his absolute power, evoking the importance of our sun, whose existence is paramount for the survival of all other beings. He adopted the sunflower as his emblem and minted coins engraved with sunflower designs. 
  19. The sunflower was used to fashion a traditional folk violin-like instrument in Hungary. Known as the kóróhegedü, the body of the violin was formed from the hollowed-out stem of the sunflower, and fibres from the stalks were used to make the strings. 
  20. In 2010, the Tate Modern gallery in London curated an exhibition by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, in which 100 million unique handcrafted porcelain sunflower seeds were displayed. The seeds covered a surface of ten cubic meters and weighed approximately ten tonnes, filling the floor of an entire room in the gallery. Visitors were invited to walk across and interact with the tiny sculptures. The sunflower seeds were intended to represent the many million followers of Chairman Mao Zedong during the cultural revolution, who was often depicted alongside sunflowers in propaganda artwork, drawing a resemblance between himself and the almighty sun. sunflower facts
  21. Perhaps the most famous depiction of helianthus is the series of paintings entitled ‘Sunflowers’, by the Dutch impressionist, Vincent Van Gogh, produced in the late 1800s. Van Gogh felt that the flowers represented light, renewal, and health. The series of 11 paintings now reside at some of the most prestigious museums around the world, from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. One of theses paintings was sold by Sotheby’s Auction House in 2015 for $66 million!

Cultivated for millennia, sunflowers are sacred to some, consumed by many, and even scary to a few. Representing positivity, loyalty, strength, fidelity, and fertility, sunflowers are towering features not just in gardens, but in spirituality and symbolism as well. Providing a tasty and nutritious snack for insects, birds, and humans alike, and inspiring some of the most esteemed and recognisable artwork ever created, there’s much more than first meets the eye when it comes to this most eye-catching of plants!

Reference List

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Emily Grice

Emily Grice

Em Grice is a content writer specialising in horticulture and botany who combines her respect for the natural world with her love for the written word. A regular contributor to a range of international publications and organisations, she is most at peace when pottering in her own little garden in the north of England

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