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Sunflowers are well known for their height and staggering beauty and have always been seen as a symbol of the sun, light, hope and innocence. This is not just to do with the colour and shape of these pretty flowers – their first name of ‘Helianthus’ derives from the name for the Greek god of the sun, Helios.


Traditionally, sunflower blossoms have large dark centres surrounded by brilliant yellow petals. However, hybridisation has produced many different colours from lime right through to a deep maroon. Some even have so many petals that the dark centres are obscured (the ‘Teddy Bear’ variety). This array of colours can be seen mostly in the Summer months, and also occasionally throughout the year in very mild climates.  Normally the sunflower can grow up to fifteen feet high (the Mongolian Giant, Kong Hybrid or Mammoth sunflower), but again cultivation has created varieties including the Dwarf Sunspot, which only reaches one to two feet high.

Growing sunflowers is easy. All they need is lots of sunlight and fertile soil that drains well – perfect for the grower with a busy life! As well as being aesthetically pleasing, sunflowers are actually beneficial to the environment – they are able to decontaminate water and soil by extracting toxic waste through their root systems.


American natives discovered and began to cultivate the sunflower as early as 2300BC. Sunflower seeds were roasted and grounded for baking, and also mixed with butter for a delicacy known as ’seed balls’. Hulls of the seeds were even mixed with boiling water to create a coffee-like drink. Furthermore, sunflower petals and pollen were used for face paints and for medicines treating anything from wart removal to snake bites. The oil extracted from the seeds has also proved very useful, creating cooking oils, hair treatments, biodiesel and more.


By the 16th century, the sunflower began to spread across Europe as more people recognised its beneficial properties. It was still renowned for its beauty though, inspiring many artists over the years including Van Gogh. The sunflower is definitely not just a pretty face!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 at 3:20 pm and is filed under Fact Files, Sunflowers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Sunflower Fact File”

acai berry side effects Says:

It’s finally start to warmup! Soon it’ll be time to growthis years garden!

LauraD Says:

I already have some pretty colours coming through

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