Common Sunflower


The Common Sunflower is an annual, yellow wildflower native to the western United States,  growing from near sea level to about 7,000 feet.  Many seed-eating wild birds and rodents feed on the seed, and the plants themselves provide cover for birds.  Butterflies, bumblebees and honey bees feed on the pollen and nectar.

Common Sunflower has been cultivated since pre-Columbian times.  Native Americans made use of many parts of the plant for a wide range of uses:  yellow dye was made from the flowers and black dye from the seeds, the seeds were ground for flour, oil was extracted from the seeds and used in cooking and as a hair dressing, and various parts of the plant had medicinal uses for everything from rattlesnake and spider bites to lung ailments.  Today seeds from cultivated strains are used for cooking oil and, after the oil is extracted, livestock feed.    The Common Sunflower is also used in reclamation work because it prefers dry, open areas and establishes itself readily on disturbed sites.

An interesting characteristic of the Common Sunflower is that it is allelopathic, meaning that it exudes a chemical that inhibits the germination or growth of competing plants.   Because of this feature and its ability to establish large stands on disturbed sites, it is considered a weed in some states.

The Common Sunflower with its large, cheerful yellow blossoms is the Kansas State Flower and it is a popular component of low-maintenance gardens.  Common Sunflower seeds should be planted 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep after the soil warms to 50 degrees or more.  It prefers clay or heavy sand soils.  The seed typically has a high dormancy, meaning that it may take several years for all the seed to germinate.




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