A sunflower by T. VoeklerPhoto by T. Voekler

Fast Facts

  • Adopted the Kansas state flower in 1903
  • Botanical name: Helianthus annuus
  • Kansas is nicknamed “The Sunflower State.”
  • Common names: Common sunflower, wild native sunflower
  • Sunflower trivia: Sunflower oil, made from sunflower seeds, is the third most common cooking oil
  • Kansas Flower Delivery

When a Kansas state lawmaker attended a rodeo that was out of the state in the late 1800s, he noticed something that surprised him: other Kansans wearing sunflowers to identify themselves as being from “the Sunflower State.” Inspired by this, George Morehouse returned home and filed legislation to make the sunflower the state’s official floral emblem.

In 1903, the wild native sunflower, also known as the common sunflower, became the official state flower of Kansas. (Interestingly, less than a decade earlier, lawmakers had unsuccessfully called for the eradication of the “noxious weed.”) In their legislation, lawmakers praised the sunflower as a symbol of the state’s “frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies” as well as the state’s present and future.

Sunflowers continue to flourish across the state today where they grow in the wild as well as in suburban yards and in commercial farms. Each summer, fields of wild sunflowers spring up along roadsides in western Kansas. The Kansas state flower can grow quite tall, reaching heights up to nine feet. With their leggy stalks, wide round heads and cheery radiant faces, these plants are a photographer’s favorite. Drivers heading out of state past Wichita can often be seen pulling over to capture their natural charm.

Sunflowers by Bruce FritzPhoto by Bruce Fritz

Elsewhere in the state, the Kansas state flower adds charm and color to cities and residential gardens. In Kansas City and Topeka, sunflowers brighten up summer gardens by attracting birds to eat their seeds. At the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, sunflowers form a summertime maze for children to explore.

While seemingly a simple flower, Kansas’s state flower is actually made up of many flowers arranged in precise symmetrical patterns. The head of the flower consists of many flowers, or florets, closely clumped together. Its outer flowers come in red, orange, maroon and the familiar yellow color. Its inner flowers, called disc florets, grow inside the sunflower’s disc in interconnecting spiral patterns. These florets mature into what many call sunflower seeds. The plant’s true seeds are located inside the husks of these fruits.

Not only is the Kansas state flower attractive, but it is also a valuable resource. The sunflower’s oil is used in cooking and the seeds are used in breads, salads and as a snack food. In recent years, sunflowers have also been grown to harvest their oil for use as an alternative biodiesel fuel. With such versatile uses, it’s easy to see why Kansans continue to be proud of their state flower!


Duke University