Asteraceae / Aster
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This Sunflower was brought into cultivation over three thousand years ago by Native Americans in what is now the western U. S. They selected the largest seeds to plant and thus produced a much larger seed than the wild plant had. Introduced into Europe in the sixteenth century it was the Russians who first cultivated it on a large scale. Plants the Russians developed were then reintroduced in the U. S. Now cultivated around the world for food, oil, fuel and fiber it is one of the most familiar plants on the earth. The Sunflower motif is often seen in art, fashion and interior design.
In addition to filling birdfeeders the seed produce an oil used in cooking and many food products including margarine. The oil is also used to make soap and lubricants.
Lore: Native Americans used the seeds for food. The ate the seeds raw, roasted, boiled, made them into gravy, gruel and breads. There are numerous accounts of braves taking a carefully wrapped cake or ball made from the seeds to eat when they became fatigued to provide quick stimulation. In addition to eating the seeds they produced oil from them, although the wild plants may have been preferred to the cultivated ones for oil production. Various tribes ascribed various medical and magical powers to the plant and it played a role in ceremony in some tribes as well.
Similar Species: There are many Sunflowers that are somewhat similar
to this one. Particularly like it is Ashy Sunflower, Helianthus mollis which has leaves
that clasp the stem.
One of the best general guides to wildflowers of the North Eastern and North Central United States. Newcomb's key is an excellent, simple method for identifying plants. Newcomb has drawings for almost every plant mentioned that are excellent aids to identifying the species. Though only the more common plants are covered this is often the first book I pick up when trying to identify a wildflower.
This is perhaps the best of many field guides covering this region. Featuring 446 excellent color photographs (located with the text) and mentioning as similar to those illustrated are another 800 or so species for a total coverage of over 1,200 species. The start of each family section includes line drawings of some of the species showing important features. The text includes the usual description, bloom season, range, habitat and additionally includes information such as medical uses and lore and how the species was named. This is the official field guide of the Tennessee Native Plant Society.
Angiosperms / Flowering Plants
Dicots / Two Seed Leaves