Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)

Asteraceae (Aster Family)

USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.

Common sunflower is a widely branching, stout annual, 1 1/2-8 ft. tall, with coarsely hairy leaves and stems. The terminal flowers heads are large and showy, up to 5 in. across. A tall, coarse leafy plant with a hairy stem commonly branched in the upper half and bearing several or many flower heads, the central maroon disk surrounded by many bright yellow rays. Yellow ray flowers surround brown disk flowers.

Photographic Location: Wilson County, TN.


The state flower of Kansas. The heads follow the sun each day, facing eastward in the morning, westward at sunset; the name in Spanish means turns toward the sun. 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. Many variants have been developed, some with one huge head topping a stalk 9-16 ft (3-5 m) tall, others with maroon rays. 

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