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History of Sunflowers

Sunflowers are bright and cheery flowers that are appropriate for a number of occasions including birthdays, to say congratulations or thank you, or even just because. Below is a brief history of this lively flower as well as some quick facts about sunflowers, compiled from National Sunflower Association and The Flower Expert.

History of Sunflowers

Evidence suggests that sunflowers were cultivated approximately 3000 BC., in present-day Arizona and New Mexico by American Indians. Sunflowers served multiple uses such as putting ground seeds into flour for cakes, eating the seeds as a snack, and using the oil for making bread. Sunflowers were also used when it came to building and for ceremonial, medical, and textile purposes.

Around 1500, sunflowers were taken to Europe by Spanish explorers where they were mainly ornamental, but were also developed for medicinal uses. Following this in the 18th century, sunflowers became a hugely popular cultivated plant and its oil started to be commercially manufactured by 1830.

By the early 19th century, Russian farmers had grown more than 2 million acres of sunflowers, and had also identified one type for oil production, and one for direct human consumption. The Russian sunflower seed made its way into the United States by late in the 19th century, where the first commercial use was feed for poultry, and in 1930, Canada spearheaded the first official government sunflower breeding program.

Sunflower oil was in high demand throughout Canada and the U.S., resulting in acreage spread and production and these lovely flowers were hybridized for disease resistance and additional oil enhancement. Further request for sunflower oil came from Europe as the Russians could no longer supply the growing demand, therefore increasing U.S. acreage to more than 5 million. Today however, Western European depends on its own production, despite still being a large consumer of sunflower oil.

Facts about Sunflowers
• The botanical name for sunflowers is Helianthus Annuus.
• In Greek, "helios" means sun and "anthos" means flower.
• Sunflowers make up the genus Helianthus, which consists of about 67 species.
• Heliotropism is the name of the behavior for sunflowers turning to face the sun.
• The sunflower is the official flower for the U.S. state of Kansas and is the national flower of Russia.


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