Native to the Americas, but grown in Europe from the 16th century in large numbers, sunflowers are cultivated and used around the world as cut flowers, a source of oil, and a source of food in the form of seeds. Because it was introduced during the Age of Discovery, the religions of Europe didn’t have any qualms with practicioners using sunflower oil to cook during Sabbath – it’s popularity was as much a result of it’s beauty as it was it’s usefulness. It’s thought that sunflowers point their blooms towards the sun throughout the day – while this behavior, known as heliotropism, is sometimes observed in young plants, typically flowers end up facing east (and staying that way!)
Sunflowers come in a wide variety of yellow, red and golden hues. The “seeds” of the sunflower are actually little tiny flowers – on some varietals the seeds will actually open, while in plants with a dark center the seeds are closed. Sunflowers grow on hairy stems that are stiff enough to stand up eight to twelve feet straight.
Native to North America, the Sunflower was domesticated as early as 3000BCE. Much later, around 1500CE, Spanish explorers brought the bold headed flower back to Europe.  Though the flower was generally thought to be ornamental in Western Europe, by 1716 an English patent was granted for squeezing oil from sunflower seed and by 1830 Sunflower oil was manufactured on a commercial scale. In Russia, during the same time, farmers were growing over 2 million acres of the sunny flowers for foodstuffs. “By 1880, seed companies were advertising the ‘Mammoth Russian’ sunflower seed in catalogues. This particular seed name was still being offered in the US in 1970, nearly 100 years later. 
– Sunflowers are a great gift for celebrations of life – they’re great in baby shower arrangements.
– The sunflower is the state flower of the US state of Kansas, and one of the city flowers of Kitakyūshū, Japan, and the national flower of the Ukraine.
– Wild Sunflowers don’t look anything like their cultivated cousins. In the wild, sunflowers have many branches with small flower heads and small seeds.


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