Sunflowers – Helianthus annuus


At early dawn, like soldiers in their places,
Rank upon rank the golden sunflowers stand;
Gazing toward the east with eager faces,
Waiting, until their god shall touch the land
To life and glory, longingly they wait,
Those voiceless watchers at the morning’s gate….


By Albert Bigelow Paine


This native of the Central and South Americas was first spread through North America in the 16th century becoming one of the most familiar of flowering plants in the garden. In the time of the Aztecs they were revered, worn on the heads of priestesses of the Temple of the Sun and carrying them in their hands.


In mythology a water nymph, named Clytis, was in love with Apollo, but it was an unrequited love. As a result she died of a broken heart, and was reborn as a sunflower. The sunflower since she pursued Apollo, as the sunflower follows the sun!


For consumption the seed can be eaten out of hand, or included in baked goods, or pressed to obtain a very bright yellow oil. The oil compares with olive oil for healthful eating! The seeds may be roasted and then steeped into an agreeable drink.


The seeds are diuretic, and expectorant. They have been utilized in the treatment of bronchial and pulmonary problems (i.e. coughs and colds, or whooping cough). In Turkey and Persia they have utilized a tincture from the seed and ‘rectified spirit’ of wine to treat fevers and ague.


All parts are useable, with the leaves used as animal feed or as an herbal tobacco, the stalks having a fiber used in making paper, and the flowers petals may be used for dye. It is the state flower of Kansas; and one of the city flowers of Kitayushu, Japan. The sunflower is also used to symbolize the Vegan Society and of green ideology.

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