The Sunflower Story

sunflower

In the news today is the sunflower story as a symbol of hope, unity, and resistance although the sunflower has a long history of cultural meaning.

This sunny annual garden favorite has meant many things to many cultures throughout the centuries and worldwide. Today it is gaining deeper meaning from our solidarity with the Ukrainian people and a global symbol of resistance, unity, and hope.  Here are some of the many diverse meanings attributed to this spectacular flowering specimen throughout history.
The scientific name for the sunflower is Helianthus. It comes from the Greek words “helios,” meaning sun, and “Anthus,” meaning flower.
According to some, the ancient Greeks believed that sunflowers turned towards the sun because the nymph Clytie adored Apollo, the God of the Sun. At first, he loved her too, but then he turned his affections towards another nymph. Clytie told the other nymph’s father in a jealous rage, and he buried her alive as punishment. Outraged, Apollo turned Clytie into a sunflower, but her love for him was so strong she watched him move across the sky each day – just as sunflowers follow the sun. This story adds adoration and loyalty to the list.
The sunflower story origins were here in the Americas between 1000-5000 years ago; the Native Americans cultivated this crop and viewed sunflowers as symbols of harvest and abundance with their bounty to hunters and gatherers centuries ago. 
With the discovery of the new world, the sunflower’s popularity spread throughout Europe. And it soon became a favorite subject, even the obsession of many impressionist painters.

The flower symbolizes good fortune, longevity, and everlasting joy in China. When wishing someone good luck or to express happiness for an accomplishment, the Chinese often give sunflowers.
One of the sunflower’s recent and most significant and critical symbolic meanings is having a nuclear-free world. On June 1, 1996, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. Celebrating the occasion, the defense ministers from the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine planted Sunflowers. They scattered Sunflowers seeds to represent a world of peace, hope, and freedom from any dangerous nuclear weapons. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations.”

More than just a symbol against nuclear, the flowers absorb harmful toxic elements and radiation from the soil and clean up the environment. They were planted on an old Ukrainian missile base and grew across nuclear disaster sites like Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Hiroshima.

DID YOU KNOW

Sunflowers are heliotropic.  Heliotropism refers to species that follow the sun’s movement as it travels across the sky. In its early stages, the buds and leaves of the sunflower display this behavior. Once the head of the plant has come into full bloom, it remains fixed facing towards the east where the sun rises.
Each sunflower is actually thousands of teeny flowers. The iconic yellow petals and fuzzy brown centers are actually individual flowers themselves. As many as 2,000 can make up the classic sunflower bloom.

A dried sunflower makes a unique, natural bird feeder. Feathered friends love to snack on sunflower seeds just like you do.
Each sunflower can contain as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds. So there are tons for birdies to munch on! But you can harvest and roast them for yourself, too.
The tallest sunflower on record was over 30 feet tall. Coming in at 30-feet, 1-inch, the bloom was grown in Germany by Hans-Peter Schiffer, who has held the record twice before.
You should harvest sunflowers in the morning, not the afternoon. Planning to clip a few to display in a vase? If you wait until the afternoon, they may wilt.
To learn more about the sunflower story and how to grow them check out this great video by Epic Gardening.

Sources:

Sunflowers: Meaning Care & Symbolism – Interflora. https://www.interflora.co.uk/page/flower-types/sunflowers

‘Sunflower and Daisy’ Allure: attraction – PRANSUK DESSERT. https://pransukdessert.com/products/sunflower-and-daisy-allure-attraction

Sunflower Original A4 Illustration — Jessica Donnelly. http://www.jessicadonnelly.com/shop/wild-daffodil-original-a4-illustration-1

Sunflower Facts – Things You Didn’t Know About Sunflowers. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/a32638/sunflower-fun-facts/

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