AppearanceThe plant has an erect rough-hairy stem, reaching typical heights of 3 metres. The tallest sunflower on record achieved 9.17 metres.
Sunflower leaves are broad, coarsely toothed, rough and mostly alternate. What is often called the "flower" of the sunflower is actually a "flower head" or pseudanthium of numerous small individual five-petaled flowers. The outer flowers, which resemble petals, are called ray flowers. Each "petal" consists of a ligule composed of fused petals of an asymmetrical ray flower.
They are sexually sterile and may be yellow, red, orange, or other colors. The flowers in the center of the head are called disk flowers. These mature into fruit. The disk flowers are arranged spirally. Generally, each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 137.5°, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals, where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically, there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; however, in a very large sunflower head there could be 89 in one direction and 144 in the other. This pattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds mathematically possible within the flower head.
Most cultivars of sunflower are variants of ''Helianthus annuus'', but four other species are also domesticated. This includes ''H. tuberosus'', the Jerusalem Artichoke, which produces edible tubers.
NamingThere are many species in the sunflower genus ''Helianthus'', and many species in other genera that may be called sunflowers.
⤷ The Maximillian sunflower is one of 38 species of perennial sunflower native to North America. The Land Institute and other breeding programs are currently exploring the potential for these as a perennial seed crop.
⤷ The sunchoke is related to the sunflower, another example of perennial sunflower.
⤷ The Mexican sunflower is ''Tithonia rotundifolia''. It is only very distantly related to North American sunflowers.
⤷ False sunflower refers to plants of the genus ''Heliopsis''.
PredatorsOne of the major threats that sunflowers face today is Fusarium, a filamentous fungi that is found largely in soil and plants. It is a pathogen that over the years has caused an increasing amount of damage and loss of sunflower crops, some as extensive as 80 percent of damaged crops.
Downy mildew is another disease to which sunflowers are susceptible. Its susceptibility to downy mildew is particular high due to the sunflower's way of growth and development. Sunflower seeds are generally planted only an inch deep in the ground. When such shallow planting is done in moist and soaked earth or soil, it increases the chances of diseases such as downy mildew.
Another major threat to sunflower crops is broomrape, a parasite that attacks the root of the sunflower and causes extensive damage to sunflower crops, as high as 100 percent.
EvolutionAlthough it was commonly accepted that the sunflower was first domesticated in what is now the southeastern US, roughly 5000 years ago, there is evidence that it was first domesticated in Mexico around 2600 BC. These crops were found in Tabasco, Mexico at the San Andres dig site. The earliest known examples in the United States of a fully domesticated sunflower have been found in Tennessee, and date to around 2300 BC. Other very early examples come from rockshelter sites in Eastern Kentucky. Many indigenous American peoples used the sunflower as the symbol of their solar deity, including the Aztecs and the Otomi of Mexico and the Incas in South America. In 1510 early Spanish explorers encountered the sunflower in the Americas and carried its seeds back to Europe. Of the four plants known to have been domesticated in what is now the eastern continental United States and to have become important agricultural commodities, the sunflower is currently the most economically important.
During the 18th century, the use of sunflower oil became very popular in Russia, particularly with members of the Russian Orthodox Church, because sunflower oil was one of the few oils that was allowed during Lent, according to some fasting traditions. In the early 19th century it was first commercialized in the village of Alexeyevka in Voronezh Governorate by the merchant named Daniil Bokaryov, who developed a technology suitable for its large-scale extraction, and quickly spread around. The town's coat of arms includes an image of a sunflower ever since.
Among the Zuni people, the fresh or dried root is chewed by the medicine man before sucking venom from a snakebite and applying a poultice to the wound. This compound poultice of the root is applied with much ceremony to rattlesnake bites. Blossoms are also used ceremonially for anthropic worship.
UsesTo grow best, sunflowers need full sun. They grow best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil with heavy mulch. In commercial planting, seeds are planted 45 cm apart and 2.5 cm deep.
Sunflower "whole seed" are sold as a snack food, raw or after roasting in ovens, with or without salt and/or seasonings added. Sunflowers can be processed into a peanut butter alternative, sunflower butter. In Germany, it is mixed with rye flour to make ''Sonnenblumenkernbrot'' , which is quite popular in German-speaking Europe. It is also sold as food for birds and can be used directly in cooking and salads. Native Americans had multiple uses for sunflowers in the past, such as in bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints.
Sunflower halva is popular in countries in Eastern Europe, including Belarus, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, and Ukraine as well as other countries of the former Soviet Union. It is made of sunflower seeds instead of sesame.
Sunflower oil, extracted from the seeds, is used for cooking, as a carrier oil and to produce margarine and biodiesel, as it is cheaper than olive oil. A range of sunflower varieties exist with differing fatty acid compositions; some 'high oleic' types contain a higher level of monounsaturated fats in their oil than even olive oil.
The cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed. The hulls resulting from the dehulling of the seeds before oil extraction can also be fed to domestic animals. Some recently developed cultivars have drooping heads. These cultivars are less attractive to gardeners growing the flowers as ornamental plants, but appeal to farmers, because they reduce bird damage and losses from some plant diseases. Sunflowers also produce latex, and are the subject of experiments to improve their suitability as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber.
Traditionally, several Native American groups planted sunflowers on the north edges of their gardens as a "fourth sister" to the better known three sisters combination of corn, beans, and squash. Annual species are often planted for their allelopathic properties.
However, for commercial farmers growing commodity crops other than sunflowers, the wild sunflower, like any other unwanted plant, is often considered a weed. Especially in the Midwestern US, wild species are often found in corn and soybean fields and can have a negative impact on yields.
Sunflowers can be used in phytoremediation to extract toxic ingredients from soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium, and used in rhizofiltration to neutralize radionuclides and other toxic ingredients and harmful bacteria from water. They were used to remove caesium-137 and strontium-90 from a nearby pond after the Chernobyl disaster, and a similar campaign was mounted in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Sunflower Seeds Kaldari.jpg|Seed dehulled and with hull
2017-07-15 Ono-himawarino-oka-park ☆彡6.jpg|In Japan
SunflowerYield.png|Worldwide sunflower output
Cultural* The sunflower is the state flower of the US state of Kansas, and one of the city flowers of Kitakyūshū, Japan.
⤷ The sunflower is often used as a symbol of green ideology. The sunflower is also the symbol of the Vegan Society.
⤷ During the late 19th century, the flower was used as the symbol of the Aesthetic Movement.
⤷ The flowers were the subject of Van Gogh's ''Sunflowers'' series of paintings.
⤷ The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine.
⤷ The sunflower was chosen as the symbol of the Spiritualist Church for many reasons, but mostly because it turns toward the sun as "Spiritualism turns toward the light of truth". As stated earlier in the article, this is in fact, not true. Modern Spiritualists often have art or jewelry with sunflower designs.
⤷ Sunflowers were also worshipped by the Incas because they viewed it as a symbol for the Sun.
⤷ The sunflower is the symbol behind the Sunflower Movement, a 2014 mass protest in Taiwan.
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