Common name: Sunflower
Botanical name: Helianthus annuus
Plant type: Herbaceous annual
Blooms: Late summer to autumn
The sunflower is native to the Americas. There is evidence that it was grown domestically as early as 2600 B.C. in Mexico. The large flower heads consist of showy outer ray flowers and fertile disc flowers that mature into sunflower “seeds”. The seeds are actually an oil-rich fruit that is used raw and in processed foods throughout the world.
The name sunflower comes from the Greek word helios meaning sun and anthos meaning flower. They are best grown in full sun where some varities may reach twelve feet or more. Most members of this genus exhibit heliotropism, which is the ability to turn towards the sun. This is true in the bud stage of development where it faces east in the morning, follows the sun west as the day progresses, and returns to an eastward direction at night. When in bloom the flowers face east.
The cultivated sunflower has only one head, while wild forms have multiple heads per plant. The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas where this native plant is so common it is considered a weed. Sunflowers are an important agricultural crop choice for US producers from the northern plains of the Dakotas to the panhandle of Texas. Bees and birds are attracted to the blossoms for food and are considered easy to grow.
Beloved by both children and adults, the sunflower has been a part of the Children’s Garden at Fort Ticonderoga since its inception. This video details how the sunflower house is “constructed”. Enjoy!
Heidi teRiele Karkoski
Director of Horticulture