Hello, Helianthus

Hello Fall and hello Helianthus (aka Sunflower).  Sunflowers get their name from the Greek  Helios meaning “sun” and Anthos meaning “flower.”  

There’s something about gazing at the majestic sunflower against a Carolina blue sky. Sunflowers are like little children paying homage to a parent – they do this by tilting their heads toward the sun and following them all day, but like a lot of teenagers, they stop that ritual when their blooms are full grown.

They have very strong roots in their family tree, having been around since 3,000 B.C.  Native Americans grew sunflowers purposely for oil, seeds, fiber, and medicinal purposes.  After European settlers saw them, they sent samples back home where they found their way into English gardens as well as the subject of Van Gogh’s paintings, and where would we be without those beautiful renditions of the sunflower?

Birds and squirrels love the food they present with their full-bodied seed pod.  You can cut the blooms and set them aside in a sunny place to dry to make it easier for wildlife, or if you want the seeds yourself, you may need to cover them with a garden bonnet.  To make a bonnet, you can use a material sort of like interfacing that will allow sunlight and air to reach the bloom, but keep larger insects, and birds away.  A garden full of covered sunflowers won’t have the same effect of course, but maybe you’ll get to see “the mothership” hovering, thinking it’s an alien parade.  Deer love sunflowers too, but if allowed to munch on the tender leaves, you may not have any flowers. Chicken wire or deer fencing may be in order if you’re in a deer prone area.

Sunflower seeds are full of vitamins, proteins, and minerals and are a staple ingredient in trail mix and salads.  Pound per pound, sunflowers have almost the same percentage of protein as ground beef, and twice the iron and potassium.  So, the next time you think you need a little iron or protein, grab some sunflower seeds.