5 Facts About Sunflowers

One of the most distinctive flowers that grace our Texas highways is the sunflower. This tall and cheerful flower makes its debut in May and stays around until October. There are more than 15 different sunflower species native to Texas. Their bright yellow petals make them hard to ignore and a beautiful addition to any garden. Here are a few interesting facts about sunflowers.
1. Sunflower is one of only a few flowers with the word “flower” in its English name.

The botanical name for the sunflower is helianthus annus. The word helianthus is derived from the Greek words helio (sun) and anthos (flower). The word annus simply means that sunflowers are annual or flowers that only live for a single growing season.

2. Sunflowers faithfully follow the sun.

The sunflower actually follows the sun throughout the day — a characteristic called heliotropism. By following the sun, the sunflower makes the very best use of light and maintains a higher temperature that attracts bees and other pollinators. Interestingly, the French word for sunflower is tournesol which means to turn with the sun. The Spanish word for this cheerful flower is girasol which means to track or follow the sun.
3. Sunflowers have thousands of flowers within the flower.

The sunflower resembles a big daisy with yellow petals and a striking center. The center of the sunflower, however, is actually a garden within the flower. The centers are actually the flowers of a sunflower — thousands of tiny flowers that go to seed after pollination. The birds and the bees love these tiny blossoms that make up the center of the sunflower.
4. Sunflowers grow fast.

Sunflowers grow remarkably fast and tall. They can grow an average of 8 to 12 feet tall within six months. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest sunflower on record grew to a height of 30 feet and 1 inch in Germany. That’s a mighty tall flower!
5. Sunflowers are native to the Americas.

Evidence suggests that Native American tribes cultivated sunflowers as a crop as early as 1500 BC. These early Americans ground the seeds into flour for cooking. Sunflower seeds are rich in nutrients and vitamins A, B, C and E. Native Americans also used the sunflower to make a purple dye for textiles and body painting. Sunflowers were exported to other countries as early as the 16th century.

8 thoughts on “5 Facts About Sunflowers

    • You are correct. I should have clarified that the use of the word “flower” in the botanical name is distinctive. Elderflower and coneflower do not have the word “flower” in their respective botanical names. I should have instead titled this point: The Sunflower is one of only a handful of flowers with the word flower in its name.


      • Sunflower ”real” name is ”Helianthus” so I will need to disapoint you. No, sunflower is not real real name. But there are a lot of flowers that have ”flora” in their names. So I would say, if we roughly translate latin names, we would have a lot of flowers that use flower in name (lat. flora) right?? =)


      • Agree. I addressed the Latin botanical etymology of the sunflower in my post. My reference, however, is not to the Latin name of the flower but to its English name by which it is commonly known. A case might be made for the less popular coneflower or elderflower even though neither of these have the word “flora” in their Latin botanical names.

        To avoid confusion I have amended the first point of my post to read:
        1. Sunflower is one of only a few flowers with the word “flower” in its English name.


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