Sunflower, turns with respect to the sun, all year round because it is an annual plant known in the scientific world as Helianthus annuus. We all know it for the yellow flowers, for the paintings that portray them, for their "obsession" to follow the sun with their head, the large inflorescence that they have like all the plants of the Asteraceae family. Perhaps he knew that the sun kisses the beautiful, and got sick of heliotropism? Let's see if it went like this and also discover the many beneficial properties of its seeds, the renowned ones sunflower seeds.
The name "Helianthus”With which we refer to the sunflower, if experienced, comes from two Greek words. The first is "helios"(= Sun) and then there is"anthos"(= Flower). It is a clear reference to his passion for the sun, he is by no means the only one to have it in the world of plants, I know some "beach animals" that in the summer months are much more faithful to the sun than a sunflower, but only he deserved the name like that.
The second name "annuus" is a simple nod to the fact that it is an annual plant. Perhaps the secret lies here: the sunflower it is not satisfied with following the sun in the summer but all year round. Like a loyal lover. In Italian the common name is still an explicit reference to his obsessive behavior, in French for example it is said tournesol and in English sunflower, in modern Greek iliotrope. The concept remains the same.
There sunflower plant it is basically a large stem with some leaves: a rather anonymous structure that seems functional to support the large flower head so well known and loved. The stem reaches even 2 meters - even in the countries of origin, even 4 - has an erect and ascending shape, caressing it you can notice that it is grooved and rather rough. The diameter can vary, it is very related to height, of course, and ranges from one centimeter to 10.
The sunflower leaves they are large, about 5-8 cm broad and even 12 long, and have a rather important petiole. They are not numerous and have different shapes, both elongated, heart, and triangle. In biology the plant of sunflower it fits into the said species "Terofita scaposa": these are annual herbaceous plants that survive the adverse season in the form of seeds and that when they bloom they do so according to an erect axis, often with few accompanying leaves.
Sunflower: the flower
The flower is actually the flower head that the sunflower like all her companions she has the Asteraceae family. This has a diameter of 10 - 15 cm (even 20 cm in the cultivated ones), it is composed of a set of numerous flowers but it, for each plant, is generally unique. Inside there are two types of flowers, external and internal. The former are called "petals flowers“, There are from 17 to 30, on average, and give a yellow, possibly brown, or even orange touch. The flowers inside the flower head are the "disc flowers“, Orange or brown, and very numerous: up to 150.
Curious is the observation of the arrangement of these last flowers within the disk. Nature has gone to refer to the golden section by proposing to our eyes a spiral scheme in which the number of hourly and anti-clockwise spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers.
There are usually 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; in very large sunflowers you can find 89 spirals in one direction and 144 in the other. Let's go back with our feet on the ground, because from July, the sunflower it blooms, and remains until October, then it bears the fruits which are what we call seeds. Oval and oblong, compressed longitudinally, velvety on the surface and black or light gray: just them.
Sunflower seeds: properties and benefits
THE sunflower seeds they contain vitamin B and vitamin E which thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory function protect our body from aging, keeping our bones in good health, also thanks to the presence of copper and magnesium.
Sunflower seeds also contain a high percentage of linoleic acid which favors the creation of omega 3 fats, which are essential for keeping our cardio-vascular system in excellent health, preventing the formation of LDL cholesterol.
Sunflower seeds are also recommended for pregnant women because they contain folic acid, which is extremely valuable for promoting the correct development of the unborn child.
Sunflower seeds: where to buy them
Even if the task is difficult, if as soon as we live in an area that could adapt to the sunflower, we can accept the challenge of nature and try, buying 50 seeds in a convenient tear-off plastic bag with label for less than 5 euros. It is therefore a "giant sunflower", an explosion of yellow with which we will be rewarded when the flower sprouts. Knowing that it is not trivial to obtain it, the neighbors will certainly be jealous of it, and we will have a sunflower in the company of which to follow the sun with our eyes even on lazy summer afternoons spent reading in the garden.
In Italy the sunflower it is a rather widespread plant, even if in its spontaneous state it is still considered naturalized exotic. In the Alps it is found in numerous provinces (NO, VA, BG, BS, BZ, VR) and if it crosses the French border it is present again in the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, in Savoy and in Haute-Savoie. Still in Europe, they also have it in Austria, in the Jura Mountains and the Pyrenees. Always no more than 1500 m.
In general as a plant it likes to stay in areas in vegetable gardens and in abandoned areas, adapting to the presence of rubble and waste, or it comes out in ruderal environments, rural roads and escarpments. To learn more about the cultivation of sunflowers, I recommend reading our article "The cultivation of the sunflower" https://www.ideegreen.it/coltivia-girasole-23435.html
Sunflower: how to grow it in pots
Industrial cultivation is one thing, but the domestic sunflower? It is not an easy task to grow this plant indoors because it demands a lot of sun and wants to be in fertile, moist and well-irrigated soils. In general, the best period for sowing is spring but until the beginning of summer it can be late. If we want to try, we can equip ourselves with a pot with a diameter of at least 20 cm, and then follow our instructions illustrated in the dedicated article: "How to grow sunflowers in pots"
Girasole: art and cinema
It is a flower loved by many and the protagonist of films, songs, paintings, the sunflower, because beautiful and also for its mythical meaning. It was not for nothing the painter's favorite flower Vincent Van Gogh who dedicated a series of paintings to him, entitled precisely Sunflowers. The most famous painting is "Vase with twelve sunflowers": Wonderful, in colors and lines. For Van Gogh it was like portraying a blond lover.
Even in the world of cinema the sunflower has come a long way. There is the 1970 film, Sunflowers, directed by the great Vittorio De Sica, where these flowers are the backdrop to a love story between Sofia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
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