Newest Review: ... are annual plants that originated in America, I believe they are called Sunflowers as the flowers resemble the sun. What I find f... more
Sunflower has the Power! (Biodiesel that is!)
Member Name: harveyspeed
Disadvantages: They look a horrible mess in Autumn!
'Sunflower' is the common name given to plants of the genus Helianthus, derived from the name of the Greek sun god Helios. Helianthus consists of 67 known speicies and numerous subspecies. The most common of all ideally called the 'common sunflower (Helianthus annus).
Sunflowers are best known for their bright, mostly yellow, flowering head. They normally grow to a height of up to 3 metres, with a narrow diameter in relation to this. Despite their widespread distribution and popularity in the United Kingdom today, not a single sunflower grew here 500 years ago! Helianthus was first introduced to Europe in the mid 16th century from North America.
The sunflower has a wide range of purposes, its most obvious being that of an ornamental plant. On a commercial scale, it is probably the main species of plant directly targeted at children. This gives a fairly good indication of how easy the plant is to grow.
The seeds of the sunflower have great economic use. They can simply be eaten raw or roasted as a light, healthy snack. Alternatively they can be used to produce both sunflower oil and margarine. Popular in German-speaking Europe, they are mixed together with rye flour to produce 'Sonnenblumenkembrot' (which literally translates to 'sunflower whole seed bread'). The plant is also becoming a popular alternative to fossil fuels; the seeds of the sunflower can be utilised once again to create biodiesel.
Competitive gardeners compete each year to be the one with the tallest sunflower, largest sunflower, or the sunflower with the most heads (amongst endless other categories)! Some world records include:
Tallest Sunflower - 7.76metres - M Heijms (Netherlands), Oirschot, Netherlands, 1986.
Most heads on one sunflower - 837 - Melvin Hemker (USA) - 2001
Sunflowers have a vast array of uses. Even if you decide, like most people, to grow them entirely for ornamental purposes, they are very rewarding. They will attract wildlife to your garden whilst growing, and then afterwards, the seeds can be used to attract birds to your garden. Alternatively, you may want to utilise the seeds for your own benefit, eat them as a snack or use them in cooking!
Go on, grow your own sunflower today...
Summary: A very wide range of uses