11 Fun and Interesting Sunflower Facts
Bright. Beautiful. Cheerful. Colourful. Sunny. All these adjectives are interchangeably used to describe sunflowers. However, beyond the words, the yellow colour of sunflowers conjure images of happiness and joy. It reflects the playful, laidback, laissez-faire atmosphere of the summer season when all the boys and girls come out to play. Beyond their beauty, however, there are pretty exciting facts about sunflowers you might want to learn about. Let’s look at eleven of these.
Fact #1 – They Originated from the Americas
If you thought sunflowers are native to the hot African tropics, you are wrong. You are also wrong if you believe, like corn, tomatoes, or potatoes, they originated from Europe. The reality is that sunflowers were being grown in North America by 3000 BCE. During this time, they would be used to make food, dye, oil, and medicine. From North America, they were spread into the entire world by Spanish conquistadors. This was around 1500 BCE.
Fact #2 – They Were Imported into Russia by the Royalty
It is said that one of Russia’s royalty, Tsar Peter the Great, was so enchanted by the beauty of the bright flowers he came across in the Netherlands that he could not resist bringing some to his country, Russia.
The beautiful flowers soon became extremely popular in the country. The popularity of sunflowers peaked when the Russian Orthodox Catholic faithful discovered that sunflower seed oil, unlike other types of oil, was not on the list of banned oils during Lent. Their popularity became so entrenched that by the turn of the nineteenth century, there were two million acres of sunflowers in Russia every year.
Fact #3 – They Attract Birds
Birds are attracted by the beautiful sunny colour of sunflowers. When fully ripened, the centre part of the flower attracts birds who love eating them. As they eat, the birds disperse some of the seeds to the ground, hence perpetuating a continual supply of sunflowers.
Fact #4 – They Follow the Sun
Sunflowers act as a sun tracker, a behaviour known as heliotropism. The flower buds and blooms turn towards the east in the morning as the sun rises and follow it throughout the day. However, as they become heavier, especially when it’s seeds production time, their flexibility is checked as their stems grow stiff. At this point, they steadily face east and do not track the sun as they did when the stems were more pliant.
Fact #5 – They Require Enough Room and Sun Rays
There is a reason sunflowers derive the first part of their name from the sun. And this is not just because they look like the sun, they also need enough amounts of it. To thrive, they require at least six hours of sun per day, although the more, the better. They compete with anything that could obstruct them from the sun, which is the reason they can grow very tall, sometimes as high as 16 feet. There are, however, varieties that are adapted to different heights.
When planting sunflowers, space them out to minimize competition and allow them to grow to their full height and potential.
Fact #6 – The Tallest Sunflower in the World Is 30 Ft. 1 Inch
This record for the tallest sunflower in the world is held by Hans-Peter, who in the summer of 2014 topped the Guinness World Record for the tallest sunflower. It is reported that the flower was so tall it took the local fire brigade to measure it. They also had to use a scaffold to support it.
Fact #7 – The Have Curative Properties
Mexicans believed sunflowers could relieve chest pain. A section of Native Americans also believed the flowers had healing properties. Some think it can treat kidneys while others swear by its chest-soothing properties.
Fact #8 – They Have Been to Space
When Don Pettit, a US astronaut, travelled to the International Space Station in 2012, he brought with him some sunflower seeds. While in space, Petit would blog about the seeds, detailing the entire gardening process in what came out as a budding friendship with sunflowers.
Fact #9 – Thousands of Tiny Flowers Make One Sunflower
One sunflower head is comprised of numerous flowers. The outer petals, also known as ray florets, do not reproduce. However, the disc florets found in the centre of the flower where you find the seeds can reproduce since they have both female and male sex organs. They can pollinate themselves or be fertilized by pollen transported by insects or ferried by the wind.
Fact #10 – The Make Good Scrubbing Pads
If you have a tough cleaning job that your usual cleaning tools are unable to do, you can convert the flower head into a scrubbing pad for such heavy cleaning tasks. Of course, you will need to use one without the seeds.
Fact #11 – It’s a Low-Cholesterol Alternative to Animal Fats
One of the reasons sunflowers have remained popular over the decades is their low cholesterol seed oil content. Compared with other animal fats, sunflower oil is believed to contain low cholesterol, making it a healthy cooking oil.
Sunflower is one of the most popular plants in the world. Besides its beauty and curative properties, this stunning flower has spawned several interesting facts, some of which date as far back as 3000 BCE.