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Mary's Musings: Sunflowers

By Mary Bridges

Salina Presbyterian Manor chaplain

Growing up, August most always brought our California family to Russell for a visit. My dad came from a family of fifteen so there was no end to the visits. California seemed like a way-cool glamorous place to live but being a Kansan through and through I loved life here in the Sunflower state. One thing a true Kansan can do is throw a few sunflower seeds in their mouth and then crack and spit the shells out in one quick operation. My cousins from the west coast couldn’t do that, they would put one seed between their teeth, holding it with their hands and then crack it. My sunflower cracking skills always made me feel superior.

I did have one major bad experiences with sunflower seeds. You may find this hard to believe, but growing up I was shy and once on a trip to Hutchinson to visit my sister and family my shyness caused a bit of a panic for my parents. There was a small store on the corner near my sister’s home and as we were getting ready to leave I asked my mom for some money so I could purchase some X-L Sunflower Seeds for our trip home.

I asked the clerk for my X-L seeds and I guess the clerk didn’t understand my quiet-shy voice and they gave me something else. I paid for whatever it was and though I was disappointed that it wasn’t my seeds, I opened it as I was going to the car. It seemed to be some kind of chocolate so I took a bite to taste it. When I returned to the car my mom wanted to know what I was eating. I will never forget the horrified look when she read the wrapper and it said, “X-Lax”. Can’t really remember how the trip home went but it did teach me to speak up when misunderstood by a store clerk.

As an adult I still love eating sunflower seeds. I also love watching the birds eat the black sunflowers in our bird feeder. Even more, I love watching the sunflowers that pop up and bloom from the seeds that are dropped. As I began writing this I realized that I don’t really know much about sunflowers.

So here are a few facts that I found on Winkipedia:

Helianthus or sunflowers come from the Greek words, Helios, for sun and Anthos for flower. There are about 70 species and except for three species in South America, all Helianthus species are native to North America. The common name, “sunflower,” typically refers to the common sunflower, whose round flower heads in combination with the ligules (a narrow strap-shaped part of a plant.) looks like the sun. This and other species, notably the Jerusalem artichoke, are cultivated in temperate regions as food crops for cattle and poultry and ornamental plants. They are used as food plants by the larvae of many lepidopterans. Their seeds and oil found in many recipes. The largest sunflower field is located in Tuscany, Italy.

During growth, sunflowers tilt during the day to face the sun, but stop once they begin blooming. This tracking of the sun in young sunflower heads is called heliotropism. By the time they are mature, sunflowers generally face east.

Take some time this August to look for sunflowers while you are driving. Put in a bird feeder if you don’t already have one and watch the birds enjoy their sunflower seeds while you are happily cracking sunflower seeds. (You can buy them now already cracked but they are not nearly as much fun to eat.)


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