Cloudy With a Chance of Sunflowers

August 02, 2010

“…Bring me the sunflower crazed with the love of light.”--Eugenio Montale

Sunflowers make me smile. Some wonderful soul in our subdivision has planted sunflowers at the corner of our main road and one of the side streets. I see them daily as I drive in and out—one of those simple pleasures that add so much to life. They’re happy flowers—their bright yellows, oranges, even reds and bronzes, echoing the colors of the sun itself.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds sunflowers uplifting. Vincent van Gogh created a series of sunflower paintings during two different periods, the first (1887) in Paris, and the second (1888-89) in Arles, France where he hoped to create an artistic community. Several of the paintings were meant to be decoration for a room for his friend Paul Gauguin. For van Gogh, yellow symbolized happiness.

Here are a few more sunflower facts:

The sunflower is one of the few crop species that originated in North America. Native Americans domesticated and cultivated it.

Sunflower oil contains 93% of the energy of US Number 2 diesel fuel and researchers are exploring the potential of sunflower as an alternate fuel source in diesel engines.

The sunflower head is not a single flower as you would think from its name, but is made up of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined at a common receptacle.

Before blooming, the sunflower is heliotropic: It follows the progress of the sun from east to west in order to receive the maximum amount of sunlight. Overnight, the sunflower will turn its face east once more to meet the sunrise. Once it blooms, the stem usually remains in the east-facing position.

It think one of my next illustrated journal projects is going to be a sunflower—what could be more appropriate?

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It's what sunflowers do.”--Helen Keller

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  1. I was just going to comment that I "saw" a painting in this! Your journal will be a great place for this!!

  2. Now I have to do it--the teacher saw!! I've never painted a sunflower before, but I've seen quite a few lovely watercolors of sunflowers. Should be fun!

  3. I had no idea that it stopped turning once it bloomed -- and I've grown them! (Actually, this year's are about to bloom, so I'll be sure and watch. The buds are fat now.) I also did not realize those were individual flowers, but it makes sense. That's why they don't open all at once but in a circle from the outside to the center as the whole thing swells open. Thank you for sharing this lovely, informative post, Kathy!

    Your picture is lovely and deserving of a painting, for sure. :)

  4. You're welcome, Meredith. I should have known you would be growing them! I tried once when my son was small to grow some with/for him, but we have too much shade in our yard. Usually a good thing in hot Florida!

  5. Great post! Enjoyed the info about sunflowers... I love 'em too... but not as much as the birds in our front yard- they go through about 20 lbs of sunflower seeds a month!

  6. Wow, Teresa, 20 lbs?! The birds and the squirrels love them here, too--I suppose even if I managed to grow some sunflowers, the animals would eat them.

  7. I love sunflowers, too! Lovely photo, fun facts, and a dynamite quote!

  8. Thanks, Elizabeth. Now to get to that painting...