Sunflower Fun Facts You Didn’t Know But Now You Do

Sunflowers aren’t just beautiful flowers, they’re useful plants that have been used for healing, food, and oil for thousands of years. Do you know everything there is to know about sunflowers? Check your facts, and store them in your memory bank because you never know when you’ll need them for trivia night!

10 Fun Sunflower Facts

1. THEY’RE NATIVE TO THE AMERICAS.

They were cultivated in North America as far back as 3000 BCE, when they were developed for food, medicine, dye, and oil. Then, they were exported to the rest of the world by Spanish conquistadors around 1500.

2. THEY WERE BROUGHT TO RUSSIA BY ROYALTY.

Tsar Peter the Great was so fascinated by the sunny flowers he saw in the Netherlands that he took some back to Russia. They became popular when people discovered that sunflower seed oil was not banned during Lent, unlike the other oils the Russian Orthodox Church banned its patrons from consuming. By the 19th century, the country was planting two million acres of sunflowers every year.

3. THEIR POPULARITY STANDS THE TEST OF TIME.

Russian immigrants to the United States in the 19th century brought back highly developed sunflower seeds that grew bigger blooms, and sparked a renewed interest in the Native American plant. Later, American sunflower production exploded when Missouri farmers began producing sunflower oil in 1946.

5. THEY TRACK THE SUN.

Sunflowers plants display a behavior called heliotropism. The flower buds and young blossoms will face east in the morning and follow the sun as the earth moves during the day.

6. THE WORLD’S TALLEST SUNFLOWER REACHES 30 FEET AND 1 INCH.

In the summer of 2014, Veteran green-thumb Hans-Peter Schiffer toppled the Guinness World Record for a third year in a row. 

7. THEY HAVE A HISTORY OF HEALING.

In Mexico, the flowers were thought to sooth chest pain. A number of Native American tribes agreed with the plant’s curing properties. The Cherokee utilized an infusion of sunflower leaves to treat kidneys while the Dakota brought it out to sooth “chest pain and pulmanery troubles.” 

8. THEY HAVE TRAVELED TO SPACE.

In 2012, U.S. astronaut Don Pettit brought along a few companions to the International Space Station: sunflower seeds. Petit regularly blogged about his budding friendship and shared photos of the gardening process. 

9. THEY ARE ACTUALLY THOUSANDS OF TINY FLOWERS.

Each sunflower’s head is made of smaller flowers. The petals we see around the outside are called ray florets, and they cannot reproduce. But the disc florets in the middle, where the seeds develop, have both male and female sex organs, and each produce a seed. They can self-pollinate or take pollen blown by the wind or transported by insects. 

10. THEY CAN BE USED AS SCRUBBING PADS.

Once the flower heads are empty of seeds, they can be converted into disposable scrubbing pads for jobs too tough for your cleaning tool.  

You can find these beautiful flowers at your local Bashas’ starting at $7.99 during the month of September. For more details on sunflowers, be sure to check out these glorious facts.