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.

5 Facts About Firecracker Penstemon

I had my first encounter with firecracker penstemon while hiking in Seminole Canyon. This amazing little plant stopped me dead in my tracks. I was immediately impressed because it was thriving in a pretty harsh environment. All rock, little dirt, scant shade — no problem. These challenges might cause other plants to wither in fear, but not the firecracker penstemon. It proudly displayed an inspiring rugged defiance.
In Seminole CanyonHere are five interesting facts about firecracker penstemon.

1. Firecracker penstemon is a desert beauty.

Firecracker penstemon is easy to spot against the palette of drab desert colors. This perennial’s red tubular blossoms make it one of the most strikingly beautiful plants in the desert. The telltale red flowers grow in profusion, with some plants bearing as many as thirty flowering stalks.
Firecracker Penstemon A2. Firecracker penstemon is not easily intimidated.

What I find amazing about this rugged little plant is its ability to grow in nothing more than a few teaspoonfuls of dirt or in thin fractures in boulders. These conditions would intimidate other plants but no so with the firecracker penstemon. In fact, too much soil, too much water, and too much shade spell too much trouble to firecracker penstemon.
Firecracker Penstemon F3. Firecracker penstemon is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Hummingbirds absolutely love the tubular and nectar-rich red flowers of the firecracker penstemon. These cute little hovering birds will, in fact, stake territories over patches of penstemon. Who would have thought that hummingbirds were territorial. Firecracker penstemon is so important to hummingbirds that they will risk everything to defend their respective patches of penstemon.
Firecracker Penstemon G4. Firecracker penstemon laugh in the face of heat and drought.

Firecracker penstemon thrives in the desert because it is drought tolerant. The best way to shorten the life of firecracker penstemon is by over-watering, over-fertilizing, and over-thinking what this little beauty needs. Penstemon is right at home in the sun, in the heat, and in the cold. It can grow in 100+ temperatures and is hardy to -20 degrees F. This plant does just fine on its own.
Firecracker Penstemon C5. Firecracker penstemon has a few aliases.

Like other plants and flowers, firecracker penstemon has more than one other alias. This flowering desert beauty is also known as firecracker beardtongue, Eaton’s penstemon, and Eaton’s beardtongue. But regardless of which title you prefer, this plant remains pleasing to the eyes and is an inspiration to all who find themselves dealing with life’s challenges. The firecracker penstemon by any name reminds us that we too can survive and even thrive in tough places and through tough times.