Sunflower Facts

Sunflower Facts
Sunflower is a plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae. There are around 60 different species of sunflowers that are all native to North America. Cultivation of sunflowers started 2600 BC in Mesoamerica. These plants are very popular and widely cultivated today. Sunflowers are used as a source of food, oils and pigments. People also cultivate sunflowers because of their ornamental morphology. Beauty of the sunflowers was great inspiration for Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, who painted two series of paintings dedicated to sunflowers. Unfortunately, some species, such as whorled sunflowers are endangered due to habitat destruction as a result of increased deforestation.
Interesting Sunflower Facts:
Sunflower can reach 3 to 18 feet in height. It is the one of the fastest growing plants, able to reach 8 to 12 feet in just 6 months.
Sunflower has two types of leaves: oppositely arranged, heart-shaped (lower leaves) and alternately arranged, narrow (upper leaves).
Head of sunflower consists of up to 2000 miniature flowers (called florets) that turn into seeds after pollination. Edge of a head is made of flowers that do not transform into seeds. They are usually yellow, orange or red in color.
There are two basic types of sunflower seeds: black and stripe. They differ in size, color and amount of nutrients.
Young sunflower plants orient their heads toward the sun. This phenomenon is known as heliotropism.
Sunflowers reach maturity 80 to 100 days after planting. Dwarf varieties require less time than Mammoth (large) types.
Sunflower is national flower of Russia, Ukraine and state flower of Kansas.
Sunflower was important source of food for Native Americans. They used yellow pigment from the flowers to paint their bodies during spiritual rituals. Also, they used sunflowers in medical purposes and for the production of bread.
Sunflower seeds are rich source of vitamins of the B group and vitamin E, and minerals such as copper, phosphorus, selenium and magnesium.
Black sunflower seeds are rich source of oil which is used for cooking.
Stripe seeds are popular as snacks. They are also often used as ingredient of salads, breakfast cereals, various salty dishes and breads.
Seeds of sunflower are important food source for birds, squirrels and insects.
Sunflower seeds are used for the production of biodiesel (eco-friendly type of diesel, designed to reduce pollution of the atmosphere).
Sunflower is able to absorb heavy metals and toxins from the ground and it is often planted in the heavily polluted areas. These plants were used to reduce nuclear pollution after Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Sunflower can grow as annual (plant that completes its life cycle in one year) or perennial plant (plant that lives more than two years), depending on the species.

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