Sunflower. A beautiful flower and national symbol.

commercial sunflower crop

Sunflower. A beautiful flower and national symbol.

The Sunflower (Helianthus annum L.) is a member of the Asteraceae family. Helianthus is derived from the Greek words helios (sun) and anthos (flower) and has the same meaning as the English name Sunflower, which was given to these flowers based on the belief that they follow the sun during the day.

Sunflower flower parts
Sunflower flower parts

It’s an annual flowering plant with a big inflorescence. The plant has a 1 to 4 metre high rough, hairy stem, broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves that are 75 to 300 mm long, and circular heads of flowers that are 75 to 150 mm across and contain numerous individual flowers that mature into seeds. Because of their short growing season, they are big plants that are planted all over the world.

summer sunflowers
A field of summer sunflowers. Galilpoli

Origin

Researchers suggested that first nation people cultivated the plant in present-day Arizona and New Mexico about 3000 B.C. Some archeologists suggest that it may have been domesticated from corn. Although the scientific consensus had long been that Sunflower was domesticated once in eastern North America. The discovery of pre-Columbian Sunflower remains at archeological sites in Mexico led to the proposal of the second domestication centre in southern Mexico. However, evidence from multiple evolutionary important loci supported single domestication that the sunflower plant originated in eastern North America.

Uses of Sunflower

Sunflower is the fourth largest oilseed crop globally, and its seeds are used as food, while the dried stem is used as fuel. It has been utilised as a decorative plant and in ancient events for centuries. Additionally, elements of these plants are used to create dyes for the textile industry, body painting, and other decorative purposes. Sunflower oil is used in salad dressings, cooking, margarine, and shortening manufacture. The oil is used in the manufacturing of paints and cosmetics. The seed cake that remains after oil extraction is utilised as livestock feed in several areas.

Sunflower Oil
Sunflower oil has many health benefits

Additionally, it has been reported that sunflower is used medicinally to treat pulmonary ailments. Sunflower seeds have a variety of health benefits, including lowering your risk of developing diseases such as blood pressure or heart disease. Additionally, they include minerals that can help strengthen your immune system and increase your energy level. Sunflower seeds include vitamin E, flavonoids, and other anti-inflammatory plant components. The oil has been shown to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol while also possessing antioxidant capabilities. Sunflower tea is used to treat respiratory problems and malaria. Leaf tea has antipyretic and astringent effects.

Varieties of Sunflower

Sunflowers are among the most beautiful types of flowers that you should grow in your garden. These annual plants are available in various sizes and colours due to more than 70 varieties. Sunflowers are one of the most simple flowers to grow and maintain because of their Drought tolerant and pest resistant, s. Sunflowers thrive in the summer heat, and there are several varieties of sunflower that do well in a garden with plenty of sunshine.

sunflower field
A sunflower field in summer. Galilpoli

Tall sunflowers, dwarf sunflowers, and coloured sunflowers are the three types of sunflowers that can be found. Tall varieties may grow up to 5 metres in height, whereas dwarf sunflower varieties can only grow up to around 1 metre in height, making them ideal for growing in limited places.

Dwarf sunflowers
Balcony gardening: two terracotta flower pots with yellow dwarf sunflowers by stainless steel railing, on white tiles, sunny summer day

Sunflowers are available in a range of colours as well. Even though all kinds are derived from the same species, each has been carefully bred to exhibit a unique set of features. Some popular varieties  include Russian mammoth, American Giant, Sundance kid, Suntastic yellow with a black centre, Earthwalker, Ms. Mars, Strawberry blonde, Sunforest Mix, Skyscraper, Italian white, Teddy bear, Golden bear, Helios flame, Moulin Rouge (Deep red petals), Ring of fire, Choco sun, and many others.

Commercial production of Sunflower

Sunflowers are more than just a beautiful sight to see. Furthermore, they are a source of income for farmers, as it is one of the most profitable crops they cultivate. Sunflower farming is quite widespread and popular in many countries. In the last three years, the production of sunflowers has increased by up to 12.30 %. The primary reason for commercially cultivating sunflower is to produce sunflower oil, which is why it is grown in many nations.

A field of sunflowers
A commercial crop of sunflowers

Sunflower oil has been highly popular, making it highly wanted after by food processors and manufacturers. Harvested sunflowers are particularly well-suited for crop rotations since they help in the long-term management of weeds and diseases and contribute to the soil’s biomass after harvesting. Statistics show that sunflower production would climb to 56.96 metric tonnes in 2021-22, up from 50.74 metric tonnes in the previous season. Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and Argentina are the top four sunflower-producing countries globally.

Sunflower as a care and national emblem

Plants have been chosen as symbols in several countries to represent certain geographical regions. Some countries have a floral emblem representing the entire country, while others have additional symbols representing the many subdivisions. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine. Sunflower is becoming the global symbol of solidarity. Ukrainians have always considered the sunflower their national flower, and it has long maintained a special place in their hearts. In the east of Ukraine, beautiful fields of sunflowers greet the rising light as it rises.

ukraine sunflowers
A panorama shot of sunflower fields in Ukraine

Ukrainians consider them to be their national flower, and in folklore, they symbolise the warmth and might of the sun, which was revered by pre-Christian Slavs. In a weird twist, Ukraine is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of sunflower seeds and sunflower oil, which is a surprising development. Through the efforts of early North American explorers, sunflowers made their way from their native North America to Ukraine. The seeds were sent to the ancient world, where they were discovered to thrive in hot, dry climates with rich soil, such as Ukraine.

An Embodiment of Summer

Sunflowers are the embodiment of summer in their blooming beauty. Their bright yellow petals and tall green stalks make it simple to see why they are so popular amongst flower lovers. The sunflower is a beautiful flower often used to signify pleasure and congratulations; nevertheless, there is much more to this gorgeous flower.

sunflower summer
Sunflowers are the embodiment of summer in their blooming beauty

The sunflower is linked to a variety of different meanings around the world. Various cultures understand it to signify anything from optimism and strength to admiration and loyalty, among other things. Sunflowers are considered to provide good luck and long-lasting happiness in Chinese culture, which is why they are frequently given as graduation gifts and at the launch of a new business.

Bees and Honey

While the honey bee is one of the most widely spread pollinators on the planet and the sunflower is one of the most widely distributed flowers, not every kind of sunflower is attractive to honey bees. Consequently, to produce honey, you must select the best variety for honey bees because only a few sunflower varieties contain both nectar and pollen. Few sunflower varieties for honey bees are Black Russian, Red Sun, Teddy bear Sungold, Autumn Beauty, Mammoth grey stripe, Henry Wilde, etc.

bumblebee
Sunflowers are great for bees like this bumblebee.

The honey is a sweet fluid made from the nectar of sunflowers. It is mild in flavour, and its colour is a medium shade of yellow. This type of honey is a highly viscous, crystalline fluid at room temperature.

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Further Reading

A symbol of Ukrainian solidarity

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Hello, I’m Callum. A little bit about me? My passion ever since I was young is for the environment and the outdoor world we live in. Something we neglect in our concrete jungles and glass palaces. It’s this passion that’s been infused into every fibre of my company’s processes.

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