Thursday, August 15, 2013

Let's Hear It for the Sunflower

There is one wildflower that  is still a standout at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, in the heat and drought of August – the Common Sunflower – Helianthus annuus.  Singly or in large masses sunflowers wave their golden faces in the hot breezes; according to the Native Plant Index, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center,  “The heads follow the sun each day, facing eastward in the morning, westward at sunset; the name in Spanish means turns toward the sun”.  Other sources report that this turning or heliotropism occurs only in the bud stage and that the flowers face east.

Sun Flower, Photo Courtesy of Tommy Horn
The state flower of Kansas, known as the Sunflower State, Common Sunflower is said to be one of the most common wildflowers across the U. S.    From NPIN we learn that:
“The plant has been cultivated in Central North America since pre-Columbian times; yellow dye obtained from the flowers, and a black or dull blue dye from the seeds, were once important in Native American basketry and weaving. Native Americans also ground the seeds for flour and used its oil for cooking and dressing hair. In the 19th century it was believed that plants growing near a home would protect from malaria. In the United States and Eurasia seeds from cultivated strains are now used for cooking oil and livestock feed.
Common Sunflower is an annual, spreading rapidly by seed, and grows from 1-1/2 – 8’ tall.  The bloom period is from July – October.  Sunflowers provide cover for wildlife and many wild birds enjoy the seeds.

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