Thursday, May 10, 2007

Common Sunflowers

The common sunflower, the state flower of Kansas

Drive along the highways and you will almost certainly come across the common sunflower, or Helianthus Annuus, growing in fields along the roadside. These bright yellow blooms not only resemble the common image of the sun, but also turn their faces toward old Sol as he traverses the sky.

The common sunflower is a plant that almost every part can be used to create products, such as yellow dye from the petals, purple dye from the seeds, cooking oil, soap, and many others. The common sunflower is a much smaller bloom than its relative, the giant sunflower. Not only does the giant variety grow taller and have a huge flower, it also has only one flower per plant; whereas the common sunflower branches out and has many blooms per plant. The giant sunflower is actually a product of human intervention in directed evolution, being developed by people from the common sunflower.

In the photo above, you can see the fuzzy stem of the sunflower. While many times the sunflower is seen as a weed, it is a very beautiful flower in its own right.

Below is the sunflower as depicted on the Kansas State Highway shield.

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