Posts Tagged sunflowers

Make way for the fun flowers

Make way for the fun flowers

For gardeners, the color’s the thing. (File/The Spokesman-Review )

Few flowers provide as much joy — and instant karma — as the homegrown sunflower.

Simple, straight and very yellow, it shoots up quickly, tilting its massive self this way and that, following the sun like some lumbering coquette.

At least, that’s the popular image of the annual officially known as Helianthus annuus, which comes from the Greek words helios for sun and anthos for flower.

But this North American native is far from common anymore.

Imagine petals cultivated in shades of cream, persimmon or apricot, with centers the color of dark chocolate, lime sorbet or cornbread.

“They’re just magical-looking, nothing like them,” says Ron Kushner of Lafayette Hill, Pa., who likes to plant many-hued foot-highs in the front of his garden border and 15-foot giants in the back.

The colors sound good enough to eat — and plenty of birds and animals love the seeds’ nutty taste. So do humans, especially baseball players and truck drivers.

“We call them spitting seeds,” says Larry Kleingartner, head of the National Sunflower Association in Bismarck, N.D.

For gardeners, color’s the thing, along with the plant’s romping growth rate and blossom size, 4 inches to a foot or more across.

So continue imagining here. You put those many-splendored blooms atop prickly green stalks that come thin as a toothbrush or thick as a baseball bat. The stalks span heights from about 12 inches to — stand back — a “Guinness Book of World Records” 25 feet. More commonly,

the tall ones top out at 12 or 15 feet.    

Plant a group and the effect is fantastic. You begin to understand why Rebecca Boylan and so many other gardeners are wild about sunflowers.

Boylan’s been growing different varieties for 19 years, since she and her husband moved to a house in Pottstown, Pa., with an acre and a half out back. She favors mixes like ‘Fantasia’ and ‘Pastiche,’ and even created a sunflower tepee in the yard for her son when he was little.

“Sunflowers grow like crazy. They’re very easy. You get instant gratification, and they’re such happy plants,” Boylan says, anthropomorphizing just a bit.

          But she may be onto something.

Kleingartner has a similar explanation for why we find this sunny classic so irresistible.

“It’s a very humanlike figure,” he says. “You’ve got the big leaves that look like arms, then you’ve got this face, this friendly, smiling, sunny face.

“I think that appeals to people, especially kids,” says Kleingartner, whose organization comprises 10,000 commercial sunflower-growers in the Upper Midwest and Kansas.

They grow wild sunflowers, which are smaller than the ornamental ones. They also have multiple branches and heads — and are still considered a weed by most farmers.

North American Indians originally cultivated sunflowers to make everything from cooking oil and a coffee-type drink to home remedies and dyes. The Teton Dakota liked to say that when the sunflowers were tall and blooming, the buffalo would be fat and the meat good.            


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Blackbirds and Sunflowers

N.D. mulling bill to control blackbirds

      3/22/2007, 1:44 a.m. EDT 


The Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Demand for healthier sunflower oil for potato chip frying is spurring a debate about whether millions of blackbirds should die to make it easier to raise the crop.

Demand is rising for NuSun, a sunflower variety that produces oil with less saturated fat and no trans fat, said John Sandbakken, international marketing director for the National Sunflower Association. Saturated and trans fats help clog arteries and increase the risk of heart disease.

One reason for NuSun’s increased popularity is the decision by the Frito-Lay snack food company to use NuSun oil to cook its major brands of potato chips, Sandbakken said. The company announced the switch in May 2006, and sunflower plantings need to rise by 600,000 acres next year to meet the new demand, he said.

But a roadblock to increased sunflower production is blackbirds, which feast on the oilseed crop.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the birds cause about $10 million in damage each year to sunflowers in North Dakota, which produces about half of the nation’s sunflower output. Last year’s North Dakota sunflower crop was valued at $158 million.

The North Dakota Legislature is considering a bill to spend $79,500 to help in a federal effort to control blackbirds. One of the methods would involve baiting and killing the birds.

“We’re looking for any and all possible silver bullets out there to deal with this problem,” Sandbakken said.

State Sen. Terry Wanzek, a Jamestown Republican, saidhe once grew sunflowers, but hasn’t done so in a decade because blackbirds can eat away a farmer’s profit.

“We’ve surrendered,” he said. “The birds won.”

The money would pay for part-time workers, hired by the North Dakota Agriculture Department, who would help the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency with blackbird


The project would include common methods, including noise cannons that scare the blackbirds, as well as a new one — poisoning blackbirds with bait along gravel roads. The birds land on gravel roads to get the grit their gizzards need to help digest food.

Supporters of using poisoned bait say other control methods only move blackbirds from one field to another, while opponents say the poison will kill more than just blackbirds.   

Research in Louisiana and Texas of a similar blackbird baiting method in rice fields found that mourning doves and meadowlarks were most affected of all non-targeted birds. Both birds are prevalent in North Dakota, and the western meadowlark is the state bird.

“The chemical will interact with mourning doves and meadowlarks in Texas identically to a meadowlark and mourning dove in North Dakota,” said Kevin Johnson, an environmental contaminant specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The agency, which has opposed blackbird baiting programs in the past, does not take positions on state legislation, spokesman Ken Torkelson said.

The National Audubon Society is opposing the bill, said state director Genevieve Thompson.

“It just seems like a more integrated approach that does use nonlethal methods does make more sense,” she said.

George Linz, a research wildlife biologist at USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center in Bismarck, said blackbird control involves methods which include noise cannons; removing cattails, which provide habitat for blackbirds; and seeding small “decoy” sunflower plots to draw birds away from larger fields. 

 However, the tactics often cannot handle the onslaught of about 70 million blackbirds that come through the Northern Plains each year, Linz said.

Poisoning migratory birds is illegal, but Fish and Wildlife allows the killing of blackbirds without an agency permit if the birds are damaging or are about to damage crops, Johnson said.

The blackbird baiting program would include monitoring of other bird species. Linz said the bait would be put in trays, using woven wire to screen out pheasants, doves and other birds.

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Sun Flowers from Wikipedia

            Sun Flowers from Wikipedia        

                                               the free encyclopedia

The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual plant in the family Asteraceae, with a large flower head (inflorescence). The stem of the flower can grow up to 3 metres tall, with the flower head reaching 30 cm in diameter. The term “sunflower” is also used to refer to all plants of the genus Helianthus, many of which are perennial plants.


What is usually called the flower is actually a head (formally composite flower) of numerous flowers (florets) crowded together. The outer flowers are the ray florets and can be yellow, maroon, orange, or other colors, and are sterile. The florets inside the circular head are called disc florets.

The florets within this cluster are arranged spirally. Typically each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 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 1 direction and 55 in the other; on a very large sunflower you may see 89 in one direction and 144 in the other.

The disc florets mature into what are traditionally called “sunflower seeds“, but are actually the fruit (an achene) of the plant. The true seeds are encased in an inedible husk.


Sunflowers in the bud stage exhibit heliotropism. At sunrise, the faces of most sunflowers are turned towards the east. Over the course of the day, they move to track the sun from east to west, while at night they return to an eastward orientation. This motion is performed by motor cells in the pulvinus, a flexible segment of the stem just below the bud. As the bud stage ends, the stem stiffens and the blooming stage is reached.

Sunflowers in the blooming stage are not heliotropic anymore. The stem has frozen, typically in an eastward orientation. The stem and leaves lose their green color.

The wild sunflower typically does not turn toward the sun; its flowering heads may face many directions when mature. However, the leaves typically exhibit some heliotropism.

Cultivation and uses

Sunflowers are native to the Americas, and were domesticated around 1000 B.C. The Incas used the sunflower as an image of their sun god. Gold images of the flower, as well as seeds, were taken back to Europe early in the 16th century.

To grow well, sunflowers need full sun. They grow best in fertile, moist, well-drained soil with a lot of mulch. In commercial planting, seeds are planted 45 cm (1.5′) apart and 2.5 cm (1″) deep.

Sunflower “whole seed” (fruit) is sold as snacks and can be processed into a peanut butter alternative, Sunbutter, especially in China, the United States, the Middle East and Europe. In Russia it is probably the most wide spread snack.[citation needed] It is also sold as food for birds and can be used directly in cooking and salads.

Sunflower oil, extracted from the seeds, is used for cooking (but is less cardiohealthy than olive oil), as a carrier oil and to produce biodiesel, for which it is less expensive than the olive product.

The cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed. 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. There are also new breeds of sunflowers which are transgenic, so that they are resistant to some diseases.[citation needed] Sunflowers also produce latex and are the subject of experiments to improve their suitability as an alternative crop for producing hypoallergenic rubber. Additionally, the stem of a dead sunflower can dry out open wounds.[citation needed]

For farmers not intending to grow it, the sunflower is considered a noxious weed. The wild variety will grow unwanted in corn and soybean fields which can have a negative impact on yields.


Greek mythIn Greek mythology, a girl named Clytie fell in love with the sun god Apollo, and would do nothing but watch his chariot move across the sky. After nine days, she was transformed into a sunflower. However, the word “sunflower” and its cognates existed long before Helianthus annuus was brought to Europe, and it is thought that the myth (which is mentioned in Ovid‘s poem Metamorphoses) actually refers to heliotrope or marigold.


  • The sunflower is the state flower of the U.S. state of Kansas, and one of the city flowers of Kitakyushu, Japan.
  • The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosa) is related to the sunflower. The Mexican sunflower is Tithonia rotundifolia. False sunflower refers to plants of the genus Heliopsis.
  • Scientific literature reports, from 1567, that a 12 m (40′), traditional, single-head, sunflower plant was grown in Padua. The same seed lot grew almost 8 m (24′) at other times and places (e.g. Madrid). Much more recent feats (past score years) of over 8 m (25′) have been achieved in both Netherlands and Canada (Ontario).
  • The sunflower is often used as a symbol of green ideology, much as the red rose is a symbol of socialism or social democracy
  • National Sunflower Association
  • A farmer running his tractor and car with sunflower oil
  • William Blake’s poem, “Ah! The sunflower.”
  • Allen Ginsberg’s poem, “Sunflower Sutra.” Wikipedia                        
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    When can I Plant Sunflowers?

      When can I Plant Sunflowers?    

    The central rule of thumb is to plant after the last day of expected frost in your area.  Remember, sunflowers are frost sensitive.  A few days too early can mean the difference between a beautiful flower garden….and a disaster. 

    Planting Zone Map

    Learn what planting zone you live in:

    Knowing your planting zone can be very useful when your are planning your garden and flower bed areas.

    When you order plants online or through a catalog it is very useful for you to know what will have the best success in your zone. 

    Most plants are marked with a zone number. Use this map to know what plants will do best in your zone.


    Using the Zone Map is really very simple. Find your geographic location on the map. Observe the corresponding color to that location. Look at the map key. That number designates the zone in which you live. 

    You should select products that can survive in your zone. Simply read the item description and you will find a either a zone number or a range of zones. The lower of the the two zone numbers tells you the lowest recommended zone in which that plant can survive. Sometimes, an item will thrive outside that zone area. Remember this is only a guide.

    For more information visit:

    Indicator Plant Examples Listed by Zone

    Plant Hardiness Zones, Details

    From: Plant Power

    NOTE: The dates below are for the Northern Hemisphere
    (Adjust appropriately for Southern Hemisphere)
    Zone 1
    Average dates Last Frost = 1 Jun / 30 Jun
    Average dates First Frost = 1 Jul / 31 Jul Note: Vulnerable to frost 365 days per year

    Zone 2
    Average dates Last Frost = 1 May / 31 May
    Average dates First Frost = 1 Aug / 31 Aug

    Zone 3
    Average dates Last Frost = 1 May / 31 May
    Average dates First Frost = 1 Sep / 30 Sep

    Zone 4
    Average dates Last Frost = 1 May / 30 May
    Average dates First Frost = 1 Sep / 30 Sep

    Zone 5
    Average dates Last Frost = 30 Mar / 30 Apr
    Average dates First Frost = 30 Sep / 30 Oct

    Zone 6
    Average dates Last Frost = 30 Mar / 30 Apr
    Average dates First Frost = 30 Sep / 30 Oct

    Average dates Last Frost = 30 Mar / 30 Apr
    Average dates First Frost = 30 Sep / 30 Oct

    Zone 8
    Average dates Last Frost = 28 Feb / 30 Mar
    Average dates First Frost = 30 Oct / 30 Nov

    <FONTSIZE=4>Zone 9
    Average dates Last Frost = 30 Jan / 28 Feb
    Average dates First Frost = 30 Nov / 30 Dec


    Zone 10
    Average dates Last Frost = 30 Jan or before
    Average dates First Frost = 30 Nov / 30 Dec

    Zone 11
    Free of Frost throughout the year.

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    Welcome to Sunny Sunflowers

        Welcome to SUNFLOWERS   

    Since I now have my “Zany for Zinnias,” my Cosmos and my Marigolds blogs up and running, (and growing well mind you)   I am beginning my fourth flower blog.

    I have some thirty-eight other internet sites on prose, inspirational writings and medical conditions.  But, I needed a change and what a better idea could there be then starting some blogs on my favorite flowers and ideas on gardening.

    Without a doubt, the giant among flowers in anyone’s garden is the Sunflower.  They also come is a myriad of varieties and styles and heights.

    A special benefit too is the seeds that they produce.  Not only do people enjoy them, but they attract birds by the zillions.

    They are native to the Americas also, are easy to grow and are relatively carefree.


    Pat O’Connor

    01/30/2007 – New blog started 10/31/08 to replace the AOL blog after Hometown closed

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