Sunflowers Could Be Psycho

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Any information found on thegigglinggardengnome.com is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have a medical condition or are seeking medical advice, please speak to your doctor or other medical professional.

Plant Info

Common name: Sunflower

Scientific name: Helianthus Annuus

Family: Asteraceae

Sunflowers are fast growing annuals that are cheerful and pretty, but also incredibly useful. They are primarily native to North and South America. However, they are so hardy and adaptable that they have been cultivated all over the world. 

Most varieties are tall with heart shaped leaves and fuzzy stems topped with striking happy flowers. Flower colors range from pale yellow to deep maroon. Some varieties grow one big flower and some grow a whole bunch of little ones. The common sunflower can range in size from 2’-12’ high and 1’-3’ wide. 

A neat fact about sunflowers is that most varieties are heliotropic. That means that the flowers turn to follow the sun when they are young. They stop moving and face east once the flowers have reached the point in their development that they have become heavy with seeds.

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the Sun:

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the travellers journey is done.

William Blake*

Growing Requirements

Sunflower Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Direct sow sunflower seeds 3’ apart in direct sun with well draining soil. They are heat-loving plants that should be planted after the last frost date. Because of how tall they can get, it is a good idea to plant them in a spot that is sheltered from the wind. Next to a wall or fence is ideal. Otherwise, you will have to stake them. 

Sunflowers are heavy feeders. This means that they require a lot of nutrients in the soil. Because of this, it is important to amend it with compost and/or composted manure. Adding plant food to the soil when you  plant the seeds helps them get off to a strong start. Water regularly when they are in the seedling stage. Once they are established, water them less frequently but deeply. 

The problem with planting sunflowers is that they are allelopathic. That means that sunflowers release plant toxins all over the place. The entire plant spews those toxins in order to kill off any plants that might compete with them for resources. What absolutely metal behavior from such sunny and happy looking flowers! They just savagely murder any competition while smiling winsomely up at the sun. 

You know what, I think I have worked with some sunflower humans now that I think about it. Keep an eye on the plants you put around the sunflowers. If they appear to be experiencing some growth inhibition or yellowing of leaves, they may be under attack from their super friendly neighbor.

Uses

Sunflowers are so incredibly useful! In the garden, they are invaluable. Because they are tall and bushy, they provide shade for little plants that need a break from the sun’s intense rays. They attract lots of helpful pollinators like bees and butterflies. Unfortunately, they also attract birds and squirrels. These tall, bright, and cheerful plants look great in the garden and make wonderful cut flowers.

Their stems are fibrous so they have been used to make rope and paper. Of course, once they are fully dried, my kids think they make the best wizard staffs and swords. 

Hands down, the most amazing thing I have learned about sunflowers is that they can absorb contaminants from the soil. So much so, in fact, that they have been used to clean up radioactive isotopes where nuclear power disasters have taken place. Phytoremediation is when scientists use plants to fight off hazardous contaminants in the air, water, and soil. Sunflowers are one of the most effective plants for this purpose. They have been proven to pick up heavy metals as well as hazardous chemicals.

Culinary

Sunflower seed Photo by Alesia Kozik: https://www.pexels.com/photo/eggs-and-fruits-on-white-ceramic-plate-6544488/

We all know that sunflower seeds are edible and yummy, but they are also packed with vitamins and minerals that are important for nutrition. They are rich in fiber, vitamins E, B1, B6, A, manganese, selenium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, niacin, and zinc. That is why they are enjoyed by either roasting or blending them to make a tasty allergy free nut butter. They can be a snack by themselves, added to granola, or used for baked goods. People have also used them to  make a kind of flour. 

Sunflower oil has been used for decades. In Russia, it became really popular because other fats like lard and butter were banned by the church during lent. Sunflower oil was allowed and so its popularity there has been huge. People use it for sauteing, baking, frying, and just about anything else you would use an oil for. 

Some scientists believe that sunflower oil can be used for biodiesel. They believe that it could have a positive impact on the environment and cut energy costs considerably. The byproduct of sunflower oil production is a meal used in livestock feed. 

Cosmetic

Lone sunflower

The cosmetic uses for sunflowers are interesting. The oil is considered to be an excellent moisturizer and is used in lotions, soaps, and sunscreens. An infusion from the petals is used as an ingredient in anti aging creams, lip balms, soaps, moisturizers, and hair care products. Both are reputed to be revitalizing and soothing for skin and hair.

Lore

Ancient people used sunflowers as a symbol representing the sun. They portrayed them in their artwork as well as creating necklaces from the seeds. Many cultures have thought that sunflower tea was an effective treatment for respiratory ailments, fevers, and skin conditions. 

Sunflowers were said to help with abundance, fertility, and bring good luck to the garden. In the language of flowers, they symbolize loyalty, adoration, and possibly haughtiness.

Conclusion

Sunflowers are rockstars of the garden. These flowers are easy, fast growers. They have cosmetic, agricultural, culinary, and crafting purposes. They might remove soil toxins or they might kill their neighbors. It all depends on the neighborhood and their mood.

Sunflower Photo by todd kent on Unsplash

Resources

Check out these awesome sources for more info.

Hodgson, Larry. “When Sunflowers Kill!”. Laidback Gardner, 08 May, 2017, https://laidbackgardener.blog/2017/05/08/when-sunflowers-kill/#:~:text=However%2C%20the%20beautiful%20bright%20blooms,plants%20or%20even%20kill%20them. Accessed 25 July, 2023.

Farm-Energy. “Sunflowers for Biofuel Production”. Farm Energy, 03 April, 2019, https://farm-energy.extension.org/sunflowers-for-biofuel-production/. Accessed 24-25 July, 2023.

Boeckmann, Catherine, “Sunflowers”. Almanac, 22 June, 2023, https://www.almanac.com/plant/sunflowers. Accessed 24-25 July, 2023.

“Flower Meanings: The Language of Flowers.” The Farmer’s Almanac, 17, Oct 2022, www.almanac.com/flower-meanings-language-flowers.  Accessed 25 July, 2023.

Louisa. “Sunflowers: Unveiling the Diverse Products Derived from Nature’s Golden Blooms”. Afton Villa, 5 July, 2023, https://aftonvilla.com/sunflowers-unveiling-the-diverse-products-derived-from-natures-golden-blooms/. Accessed 25 July, 2023.

“Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried”. USDA, 1 April, 2019, https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170562/nutrients. Accessed 24 July, 2023.

*Blake, William. “Ah! Sunflower”. Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43649/ah-sun-flower. Accessed 24-25 July, 2023.

Kennedy, Merrit. “The Mystery Of Why Sunflowers Turn To Follow The Sun — Solved”. NPR, 5 Aug. 2016, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/05/488891151/the-mystery-of-why-sunflowers-turn-to-follow-the-sun-solved. Accessed 25 July, 2023.

“The meaning, history and symbolism of sunflowers”. Bloom and Wild, https://www.bloomandwild.com/meaning-and-symbolism-of-sunflowers. Accessed 24 July, 2023.

“Sunflower Profile”. AGMRC,  Feb. 2022, https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/grains-oilseeds/sunflower-profile#:~:text=Sunflowers%20are%20considered%20oilseeds.,ingredient%20in%20livestock%20feed%20rations. Accessed 25 July, 2023.

Spalding, Katie. “Why Scientists Plant Sunflowers After Nuclear Disasters”. IFLScience, 19 July, 2021, https://www.iflscience.com/why-scientists-plant-sunflowers-after-nuclear-disasters-60380. Accessed 25 July, 2023.

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Sunflower”. Britannica, 30 June, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/plant/sunflower-plant. Accessed 24-25 July, 2023.

Roth, Susan A. Better Homes and Gardens New Complete Guide to Gardening. Meredith Corporation, 1997, P. 364.

Franklin, Anna. The Hearth Witch’s Garden Herbal: Plants, Recipes & Rituals for Healing & Magical Self-Care. Llewellyn Publications, 2023, P. 297-299.

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Llewellyn Publications, 1985, 2000. P. 237-238.

Conway, DJ.  Magical Folkhealing Herbs, Oils, and Recipes for Health, Healing, and Magic, Llewellyn Publications, 2019. P. 187-188.

One Comment on “Sunflowers Could Be Psycho

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *