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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sunflowers

Bright, cheery sunflowers growing along the road.  A memory I have of a road trip, though I can't place at what time of my life it was or where we were going.  Sunflowers always did impress me though, they grow so tall on that skinny stem with that giant, floppy head on them.

The tallest sunflower ever recorded grew to a height of just over 25 feet tall!  That was in the Netherlands.  They're fast growing as well.  They can grow 8 to 12 feet tall in rich soil within six months and require only 90 to 100 days from planting to maturity.  For impatient gardeners who want near instant gratification, sunflowers are definitely the way to go.

If you want to attract birds to your yard, guess what flower you should plant?  Yup.  You guessed it.  Birds aren't the only ones who like sunflower seed though.  We use sunflower seeds to make oil, and for snacking. They have lots of calcium and 11 other important minerals. They do have 50% fat, BUT it is mostly polyunsaturated. 

Sunflowers also are unique in that they track the sun.  The daily orientation of the flower to the sun is a direct result of differential growth of the stem. A plant-growth regulator, called an auxin, accumulates on the shaded side of a plant when conditions of unequal light prevail. Because of this accumulation, the darker side grows faster than the sunlit side so the stem bends toward the sun. 

Here are some fun facts:
  • The former Soviet Union grows the most sunflowers.
  • The sunflower is the national flower of Russia.
  • Sunflower heads consist of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together by a receptacle base. The large petals around the edge of a sunflower head are individual ray flowers which do not develop into seed.
Here's a list of the larger variety:

Mammoth -This is the most popular of giant sunflower varieties. Mammoth grows 7-12 feet tall. These stately plants produce enormous, attractive heads over a foot across. If the birds don't harvest them first, the seeds are great for roasting.


American Giant Hybrid - Growers use this variety for competition, as it is among the biggest bloom, and the tallest of plants. Plants reach up to 16 feet, with 10 inch blooms and they have HUGE leaves.
Skyscraper - If you are looking for big blooms, Skyscraper sunflower is the one. The jumbo sized flower grows up to 14 inches across. The plant grows to 12 feet. The seeds from Skyscraper are big and delicious!

Sunflower seeds are a great source of Vitamin  E which is the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant.  Vitamin E also has significant anti-inflammatory effects that help reduce symptoms of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, conditions where free radicals and inflammation play a big role. Vitamin E has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer, help decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women going through menopause, and help reduce the development of diabetic complications.

In addition, vitamin E plays an important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.  It produces magnesium which counterbalances calcium, thus helping to regulate nerve and muscle tone. Not only that but it's magnesium that helps prevent headaches as well as muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue.

Sunflower seeds also produce selenium which help prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.  A handful of sunflower seeds can do your body of alot of good! 

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Crafting has always been a passion for me. I have yet to stick with any particular medium, as I love to switch it out and try new things. This blog is sort of a testament to that fact. Hope you enjoy...

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