The native wild sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is the designated floral emblem and the state flower of Kansas. It was adopted in 1903. The sunflower features in the Kansas quarter, state flag, and is the reason why Kansas is known as "the Sunflower State." Ironically, just a decade before it acquired the official status, the state lawmakers had unsuccessfully called for the eradication of the sunflower terming it “a noxious weed.” The flower represents the frontier days of Kansas, the pathless prairies, winding trails, and the present and future of the state. Sunflowers flourish throughout the state; they grow in the wild, commercial farms, and even in suburban yards. During the summer, fields of sunflowers spring up along the roads of western Kansas.
Features of the Sunflower
Sunflowers are quite tall plants that can grow to heights of up to nine feet. They have leggy stalks, bright cherry faces, and broad round heads. They are captivating to photographers and drivers can often be seen pulling over to take pictures. The sunflower looks like a single simple flower, but it is made up of several flowers arranged in a symmetrical pattern. The outer part is either orange, red, maroon, or the more common yellow color. Smaller flowers known as disc florets develop inside the flower's disk in a spiral pattern and mature to be sunflower seeds. The sunflower is not just beautiful, but it is also a valuable resource. It is used to produce sunflower cooking oil while the seeds are used in salads, bread, and as snacks. Advancement in technology has enabled sunflower oil to be harvested and used as an alternative to biodiesel fuel.
Facts About the Sunflower
- Early settlers of Kansas celebrated the sunflower, and in 1903, it was adopted as the official state flower through a legislative process.
- The scientific plant name “Helianthus” is derived from the Greek word "helios" meaning "sun" and "anthos" meaning "flower." The specific name "annuus" means "annual."
- The sunflower grows in every corner of Kansas due to its ability to adapt to various soils from clay to sand. It is also tolerant to dry conditions and can survive in medium moist soil.
- Contrary to folklore, sunflowers do not follow the direction of the sun but typically face eastwards when they mature.
- The sunflower is also the floral emblem of Peru and one of the symbols of Kitakyushu City, Japan.