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Closeup of the center and partial petals of a deep yellow sunflower.

A Surge In Sunflower Popularity

Sunflower; Aster Family
Everywhere I go, I see sunflowers. There is a huge surge in sunflower popularity going on right now. Although most people grow this flower for its sunny happy face, or for its seed heads; there is much more to this fascinating plant than meets the eye. This native annual can be traced back in record as far as 2600 BC, to Mesoamerica, where it was cultivated extensively. Not only was it used as a food crop, but it held religious sway as a sun deity.  In the 18th century it was introduced to Europe, where it quickly became a major world food resource that lasts to this day. I could go on and on about the many varied uses of the sunflower but surely this is all common knowledge.
I pass by a large field of sunflowers on my way to work in the morning. The flowers are all turned toward the rising sun and when I return in the afternoon they are all facing the west. This heliotropism usually ends as the flower matures, at which point the flower continually faces east. If you cut a young flower for the vase, it will continue to move with the supposed sun. I am sure that this may be what gave the primitive peoples a reason to believe that the plants held certain power associated with the sun.
I am more enchanted by the brilliant mathematical pattern of the individual flowers in the head. Most people think the sunflower is but one large flower; in fact it is hundreds of little flowers. The florets are packed in closely, at an angle of 137.5°, which is related to the golden ratio. This golden ratio is, more or less, perfect proportion. This is truly divine to behold if you look closely at the sunflower. The interconnected spirals move left and right across the face of the sunflower with perfect repetition. While one can argue perfect proportion theory as related to nature in general, I personally see divinity at play in the sunflower.

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