Facts about sunflower

We found 15 facts about sunflower

Sun-like beauty

They came to Europe quite late because they came from the American continent. Cultivated for seeds, oil, or ornamental value, they quickly conquered the old continent. Consuming sunflower seeds has many health benefits, although excess may cause allergies, rapid weight gain, problems with peristalsis, and even heavy metal poisoning (they contain a lot of cadmium).

Sunflowers are a family of Asteraceae plants consisting of about 70 species.

They are annual plants or perennials, and the most popular species among sunflowers is the common sunflower.

Only three species of sunflowers come from South America, the rest from Central America and North America.
The first sunflower crops were established as early as 2100 BC in what is now Mexico.

From there, the crop quickly spread north into southern Canada. The first sunflower seedlings were brought to Europe in the early 16th century.

In ancient times, sunflowers were grown exclusively for their large and nutritious seeds.

Oil extraction began much later. Currently, it is used for frying, as a softening ingredient in cosmetics, or as a biofuel ingredient. It can be obtained either by chemical or mechanical extraction.

Sunflower oil, when mixed with diesel fuel, can be used as fuel in diesel engines.

However, such fuels should not be used in extremely cold conditions. Due to the high content of unsaturated fats, sunflower oil has a higher viscosity at low temperatures.

The most popular among sunflowers is the common sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.).

This plant comes from North America and grows up to 3 meters high. Sunflower leaves are broad, coarsely toothed, rough, and usually alternate. At the top of a thick and stiff stem grows an inflorescence with a diameter of about 30 cm.

Although 3 meters high seems a lot for a plant, the record holder expected much more.

The tallest sunflower whose height was verified was 917 cm!

What is often called a sunflower flower is an inflorescence.

It is composed of many small, single, five-petal flowers. Sunflower flowers create a very interesting, mathematical pattern. Each flower is located at 137.5 degrees in relation to the next one, i.e. the golden angle. The flowers thus form a system of connecting spirals, where the number of left and right spirals are successive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.

In 1979, a mathematical formula was developed for generating a sunflower spiral.

It is used in computer graphics to generate images of these plants.

Sunflowers require large amounts of sunlight to grow properly.

The soil should be well-drained and moist, preferably covered with mulch.

There is often a belief that sunflower inflorescences exhibit heliotropism (they follow the sun).

This is a half-truth, because only young inflorescences show this feature, mature ones remain motionless and are most often directed to the east. The young inflorescence begins its journey following the sun from the east, towards which it turns every night. Their movement is synchronized with the sun but does not depend on its rays, because the inflorescences follow the sun even on cloudy days and when they are moved under artificial light.

Orienting mature inflorescences to the east also has benefits.

The mature inflorescence is heated by sunlight earlier than other flowers and attracts a larger number of pollinators.

Sunflower seeds have health-promoting properties.

Eating sunflower seeds can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. It also reduces inflammation in the body. They are rich in vitamins (E, A, B, and C), phenolic acids, and flavonoids. Their antioxidant properties protect cells from damage. Sunflower seeds contain very large amounts of vitamin B3.

The largest producer of sunflowers is Ukraine (15 million tons per year).

The next largest countries in terms of production are Russia (13 million tons), the EU (10 million tons), and Argentina (4 million tons).

The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine.

It is also the symbol of the Vegan Society, the state flower of Kansas, and one of the symbols of the Japanese city of Kitakyushu.

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