The sunflower genus has about 70 different species. These species of sunflower can be split into three different groups: Giants sunflowers, coloured sunflowers and dwarf sunflowers.
Sunflowers were first found in the Americas. They were domesticated in Mexico and the South of the USA. Some of the earliest sunflower seeds have been found to date back to 2100 BCE in Mexico. It is known that native American tribes would grow sunflowers to use as a valuable crop.
The sunflower was also often seen as a representative of solar deities - native Americans, as well as the Aztecs and Incas all revered the sunflower as important in their belief system.
The sunflower is also used by groups that advocate green living. As well as being taken up by eco-conscious people, the sunflower also is used as a token of the vegan Society.
Sunflowers are tall plants that can live a year or longer. Some sunflowers have the capacity to grow up to 300 cm (some even longer than this). They have large, white flower heads with maroon florets inside of them.
The outside of the flower comes in a variety of different shades. This colour diversity is due to their widespread cultivation - you can find sunflowers in red, cream, orange, bronze, and purple, even though they’re traditionally thought of as having yellow colouring.
As they are growing, sunflowers all turn to face the Sun in order to get more energy. As they begin to bloom, this rotating, known as heliotropism, ceases. When the sunflower has fully matured, it will be facing east. Sunflowers also have coarse stems that branch at the top in undomesticated varieties.
Sunflowers are typically long living plants that are native to the Americas. How a sunflower grows is dependent on its environment, as well as the genetic makeup it has.
Sunflowers are also affected by the season that they start to grow in; this also has a large bearing on how they develop. The growth of different sunflowers can be sorted by the dormant and reproductive stages of the plant. These stages are identifiable by looking at the top of where the sunflower branches.
As the name says, sunflowers are very receptive to the sun and do very well in lengthy and hot summers. Their soil needs to be adequately moist, yet well-drained. Sunflowers can also do well in drier conditions, but this is not the best for their growth.
Sunflowers have to be handled differently depending on their lifespan. With annual sunflowers, seeds are to be planted in the late winter - if indoors. If growing them outside (or dealing with perennials), spring is a better option.
Some of the threats to sunflowers include various types of mildew, rust and fungal leaf spots. Beetles and caterpillars are also active predators of sunflowers.
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By Miles Warner 25 September 2020