BE A SUNFLOWER — STAND TALL AND FOLLOW THE SUN!!
Early September brings thoughts of chilly nights and colorful trees. I can’t think of anyone in the Northeast who doesn’t look forward to fall and the beautiful weather it brings especially after enduring the hot summer heat. But, until then, we enjoy the fruits of summer and, of course, the beauty of sunflowers in the height of their glory.
At the Easton Farmers’ Market we celebrate the sunflower all year long as it is our signature flower — emblazoned on our t-shirts, hats, and kids clothing — and we delight in the real thing when EFM farmers bring fresh cut sunflowers to the market. Sunflowers come to market in many forms, not just as cut flowers — sunflower seeds also make a delicious statement in trail mix and trail mix butter, fresh salads and fresh baked goods. As a tribute, we have deemed September 1, 2018 as Sunflower Day at EFM!
So what do we know about sunflowers besides its beauty. Here is more of what sunflowers are about:
- The sunflower is a large inflorescence, this means the flower head is actually made of many tiny flowers called florets. Central florets look like the center of a normal flower while the outer florets look like yellow petals and together they make up a “false flower”. This natural design helps insects and birds to easily see the sunflower and after pollination every little flower or floret produces a seed.
- The stem of a sunflower can grow up to 3 m (10 ft) tall and the flower head can be 30 cm (11.8 in) wide.
- Sunflowers are very fast growing plants, in the right conditions they can grow 8-12 feet (2.4 m – 3.7 m) tall in six months
- The flowers within a sunflower head are clustered in a spiral pattern whereby each floret is oriented towards the next by the golden angle of 137.5°. This produces a pattern of interconnecting spirals. The number of left and right spirals are consecutive Fibonacci numbers. Normally there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other. Very large sunflowers can have 89 in one direction and 144 in the other.
- There are two kinds of sunflower seeds. Sunflower oil which is used in cooking is made from black seeds and snack food is made from the striped seeds. The seeds can also be used as bird feed.
- The sunflower is native to the America’s and was used extensively by Native American Indians for food, as oil, in bread, medical ointments, dyes and body paints.
- Sunflowers can be used to extract toxin such as lead, arsenic and uranium from contaminated soil. For example, sunflowers were used to remove toxins from a pond after the Chernobyl disaster and similar projects took place after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
- It is a misconception that flowering sunflower heads track the Sun across the sky during the day. Young flower buds do display movement similar to this behavior through a process called heliotropism. But a mature flower usually points in a fixed easterly direction.