Picture a common sunflower in your mind — what do you see?
Many people may describe sunflowers as tall, yellow and bright, but this classic sunflower imagery simply doesn’t do the plant justice. Sunflowers are dynamic because they grow in various shapes, sizes and colors.
Use the following 16 sunflower facts to inspire the way you view sunflowers. Learn about the sunflower plant itself and some health benefits below. Let’s start with the basics: colors.
1. Not All Sunflowers Are Yellow
A universal fact most people know is sunflowers are yellow. However, a sunflower’s pigment doesn’t stop there. Sunflowers can even be red and purple!
Some examples of yellow sunflowers include American Giant, Zohar and Elegance. These sunflower types are vibrant and sure to make you smile. The American Giant sunflower can grow up to 14 feet tall, so “giant” may be an understatement. This species is one of the tallest sunflowers and their faces can reach 12 inches wide.
As the nursery rhyme taught us, roses are red. In addition to roses, many types of flowers are red, including some sunflowers. Red sunflowers come in different varieties. Some of them have similar daisy-like heads which are often born of the common yellow sunflowers. Additionally, red sunflowers are an excellent way to add a pop of color in a bouquet.
A common “purple sunflower” is the Chianti Hybrid. A Chianti Hybrid’s petals have deep, dark reds which some classify as purple. This sunflower plant can grow to five feet and has no pollen, making it good for cutting. These sunflowers can help balance color in mixed bouquets.
2. Vincent Van Gogh Wasn’t the Only Sunflower Painter
Whether you’ve taken an art class or not, odds are you’re familiar with name Vincent van Gogh. Van Gogh is remembered for his sunflower paintings and changing the way people viewed a flower’s beauty. Some artists who were influenced by him include Diego Rivera, Alfred Gockel and Paul Gauguin.
Diego Rivera incorporated sunflowers in a handful of his paintings. One example is “Muchacha Con Girasoles.” This painting portrays a girl organizing a vase with sunflowers. Both Van Gogh and Diego Rivera commonly portrayed peasant life and flower imagery in their pieces.
Alfred Gockel’s style includes the use of primary colors with deep accents. One of Gockel’s paintings is titled “Giant Sunflower.” By using primary colors, Gockel made his sunflower come alive. Many people find this work unique.
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Paul Gaugin introduced inception with his art “Vincent van Gogh Painting Sunflowers.” The piece itself is fictional, since Gaugin wasn’t there when van Gogh was painting his famous sunflower painting. Gaugin enjoyed working from his imagination to inspire this painting.
3. Sunflowers Are Connected to Apollo
Sunflowers have numerous meanings and symbols. Some date back to Greek mythology with the story of Clytie and Apollo, god of the sun. Apollo, already in love with Clytie, one day was struck by the beauty of a king’s princess named Leucothoe. Lecucothe’s father did not allow her to see Apollo, but this didn’t stop Apollo from seeing her.
One night Clytie discovered Apollo and Leucothoe together and told Lecuothe’s father out of jealousy. As a result, Leucothoe was buried alive at her father’s order. Apollo, out of grief, turned Clytie into a sunflower to avoid having to look at her again. Talk about drama!
4. Sunflowers Can Range in Height
Sunflowers are regularly classified into two categories: tall and dwarf. Despite popular belief that sunflower plants are giants, some don’t get taller than two feet.
Tall sunflowers are generally yellow and durable. Most of these sunflowers reach 12 to 16 feet tall and even higher in special circumstances. Types of tall sunflowers include Skyscraper, Sunforest Mix and Russian Mammoth. Most of these sunflowers are enjoyed by birds for their height and abundance of seeds. This makes tall sunflowers attractive for people who enjoy bird watching.
Dwarf sunflowers commonly grow in clusters and immerse themselves in small gardens and pots. These sunflowers are classified as dwarfs because they tend to not grow taller than 3 feet. Dwarf sunflower types include Little Becka, Suntastic Yellow and Pacino.
A commonality between dwarf and tall sunflowers is they both grow best in full sunlight.
5. Young Sunflowers Track the Sun
A fun sunflower fact is young sunflowers track the sun, also referred to as heliotropism. In a study by ScienceMag, scientists reveal sunflowers have circadian rhythms, which promote this behavior. A young sunflower’s face follows the sun from sunrise to sunset every day and repeats the cycle until maturity.
6. Mature Sunflowers Face East
As sunflowers reach maturity, their internal clocks start slowing down until they finish the heliotropism behavior completely. Don’t worry, this process does not harm sunflowers. A ScienceMag study reveals mature sunflowers face East for a couple different reasons:
Sunflowers can attract up to five times more pollinators because they warm up faster than westward facing plants.
Sunflowers are more productively warmed when Eastward facing.
7. Sunflower Oil Has an Anti-Inflammatory Effect
The sunflower plant offers additional benefits besides beauty. Sunflower oil is suggested to possess anti-inflammatory properties. It contains linoleic acid which can convert to arachidonic acid. Both are fatty acids and can help reduce water loss and repair the skin barrier.
8. There Are Two Types of Sunflower Seed Production
Sunflower facts can be sporty too! They’re a popular snack among baseball fans. Next time you take your family out to a ball game, thank sunflowers for your salty, crunchy snack. There are two common types of sunflower seed: oilseed and non-oilseed.
Oilseed sunflower production is the most commonly farmed sunflower. These seeds hulls’ are encased by solid black shells. Black oilseeds are a common type of bird feed because they have thin shells and a high fat content. These are typically produced for oil extraction purposes; therefore, it is unlikely you’ll find black oilseeds packaged for human consumption.
Non-oilseed is the production of sunflower seeds for human consumption. These seeds are protected by striped hulls. The non-oilseeds grow on the flower head part of the sunflower plant. Healthline notes sunflower seeds are high in Vitamin E and selenium which help prevent chronic disease.
9. Sunflower Oils Can Reduce Cholesterol Levels
An American Heart Association study found consuming more polyunsaturated fats can reduce cholesterol levels. Sunflower oil, a food containing high polyunsaturated fat, is a great alternative to butter and has numerous health benefits. Polyunsaturated fats additionally supply the body with long chain fatty acids which are essential fats for the human body.
10. Sunflowers Are Native to the United States
The sunflower plant is native to North America and is now harvested around the world. A University of Missouri journal recognizes North Dakota as the leading U.S. state for sunflower production. There are various factors to consider for a sunflower to thrive, including temperature, sunlight, soil and water.
A healthy sunflower plant prefers at least six hours of direct sunlight daily with soil pH levels ranging from 6 to 7.5. Our ultimate sunflower resource guide states low to high 70 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal air temperatures for sunflower growth. Lastly, adult sunflowers can withstand intense heat because they are drought-tolerant.
11. Sunflowers Can Be Processed Into Sunbutter
Many know peanut butter, some know almond butter, but have you heard of sunflower seed butter? If you have a nut allergy, sunflower seed butter may be a staple in your diet. An interesting fact about sunflower seed butter is that it has significantly less saturated fat than peanut butter, according to the USDA.
In addition, sunflower seed butter has more minerals than both peanut and almond butters. Having a nut allergy has some benefits.
12. There Are Thousands of Tiny Flowers That Create a Sunflower’s Head
We’ve mentioned the head of a sunflower before, but what does that actually mean? The head of the sunflower is a combination of a thousand tiny flowers. In fact, each petal on the circumference of a sunflower is a flower itself. These long, colorful petals are known as “ray florets.”
13. The Tallest Sunflower is Over 30 Feet
Yes, you read that right. Over 30 feet tall! Hans-Peter Schiffer in Karst, Germany, is responsible for growing this 30 foot, one inch sunflower plant. This was confirmed by Guinness World Records on August, 28 2014. Schiffer also held this same title in 2009, 2012 and 2013.
14. Sunflowers Started as a Food Source
It is known that Natives Americans developed the sunflower plant as a food source. According to a University of Arizona report, sunflower cultivation is thought have to begun over 8,000 years ago. Some even suggest sunflower cultivation began before corn and beans.
Growing sunflowers has evolved beyond food since then. Today, many people use sunflowers as inspiration for fashion, art and home decor.
15. Sunflowers Can Self Pollinate
A common way for sunflowers to pollinate is by attracting bees that transfer self-created pollen to the stigma. In the event the stigma receives no pollen, a sunflower plant can self pollinate to reproduce. The stigma can twist around to reach its own pollen.
Additional fun sunflower fact: seeds produced from self-pollination will grow to be identical to the original sunflower plant.
16. Sunflowers Can Be Cuddly
There’s a type of sunflower that you may mistake for a stuffed animal due to its name. It’s called the Teddy Bear Sunflower.
Teddy Bear Sunflowers
Teddy Bear sunflowers are bushy and spherical. This type of sunflower produces double blooms, which gives them a full and fluffy head like a stuffed bear. Their unusual anatomy led to this plant receiving the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2015. Moreover, some people use Teddy Bear sunflowers in food as salad garnish or for cake decoration.
These 16 sweet sunflower facts prove sunflowers go beyond being yellow and tall. Whether it’s a nutritional benefit, record-breaking height or circadian rhythms, sunflowers are dynamic plants.
Let us ask once more: When you imagine a sunflower, what do you see?
Now that you’ve pictured your perfect sunflower it might be time to add them to your home. Browse through our sunflower bouquets to find the perfect arrangement for your kitchen, dining room or bedroom.
Sources: HGTV | Burpee | Van Gogh Gallery | Art.com | Van Gogh Museum | FTD (1,2) | HeritageHistory | DermatologyTimes | The Cornell Lab of Ornithology | Healthline | University of Missouri Extension | SFGate (1,2) | Green and Vibrant