THE SIMPLE KANSAS SUNFLOWER
According to popular, but erroneous national sentiment, Kansas doesn’t have much to offer. “Fly-over country,” we’ve been called. As if there’s nothing to see here.
We—the sisters of The Sister Lode—are here to tell you differently. Kansas is our born-and-raised home state, and we aren’t backing down on our stand that there’s plenty to see here.
But this is not a post about Kansas tourism. That would require a blog of its own. This is a post about one simple thing–Kansas’s state flower: the sunflower.
Our mom liked sunflowers. And, like the topics of so many other good memories of both Mom and Dad, the sunflower has been elevated in status for all three of us. It’s timeless beauty, and classic, iconic face have made it a favorite for so many people–not just Kansans, and not just us.
They are still in bloom right now—although nearing the end of their annual fashion show, so now is a perfect time to extol their virtues.
“Weeds are nature’s graffiti.” J.L.W. Brooks
The sunflowers gracing the fields and ditches at this time of year are primarily a weed. They are very common across the United Sates—except for the Southeastern U.S.–and parts of central Canada. They grow well in soils of dry to medium moisture, as well as sand and clay.
I don’t care that they are classified as weeds. As A.A. Milne, the author of Winnie the Pooh states, “Weeds are flowers, once you get to know them.”
While there are sunflowers planted as crops,
this blog is not about them. I recall that Dad did try to plant sunflowers as a crop once or twice, but he didn’t make it an annual thing.
A common misconception is that sunflowers follow the sun across the sky every day. While this is true for young, immature sunflowers, the fully mature plant will continue to face east throughout the day, as its head is too heavy and the stalk has become too inflexible to move.
Because the young plants follow a circadian rhythm, they will turn from east to west even on cloudy days. They re-orient themselves overnight to the east to begin the process over every day.
The plants are harvested for their seeds, of course, to be used not only for human consumption, but for birdseed as well.
Sunflower oil is also an economically important product of the sunflower.
Because I am enthralled to learn new, useless trivia, here is some I learned online about the sunflower, just in case you, too, may enjoy such trivial matters:
*The sunflower is the only flower with “flower” in its name.
*There are 67 species of sunflower and multiple varieties of each species.
*Sunflowers can be used to extract toxic ingredients from the soil, such as lead, arsenic and uranium. They were used to help clean up the area after the Russian Chernobyl disaster.
*The earliest examples of domesticated sunflowers in the U.S. were found in Tennessee, and date to around 2300 B.C.
*Among Zuni people, the fresh or dried root is chewed by the medicine man before sucking venom from a snakebite and is ceremoniously applied via poultice to the bite.
*The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine.
*Sunflowers were worshipped by the Incas because they viewed it as a symbol for the sun.
*Once the sunflower heads are empty, they can be converted into scrubbing pads for tough jobs.
*I may, or may not, have a wheat tattoo to honor Dad. I may, or may not get a sunflower tattoo to honor Mom. (That wasn’t from the web.)
I like the sunflower because it reminds me of Mom. Gail and Suzanne show it proudly as well.
But I like it for other reasons, too. I, too, live by the sunlight, and if I could, I would follow the sunlight every day. Unlike Gail and Suzanne–who like any and all weather–cloudy days bring me down. It reminds me of the sun; it is named the “sunflower” not only because it follows the sun, but because its face simply looks sunny.
I realize I am like the sunflower in that I like to follow the sun from east to west every day. I get a certain high from taking in a beautiful sunrise from my porch.
And an equal high from watching the sunset—this picture was taken just last night facing west from my driveway.
We are extending an open invitation to anyone who would like to discover why Kansas is not fly-over country. It is drive-through-and-around country, it is drive-here-and-discover country.
Kansas is our beautiful home, and the sunflower is our beautiful, iconic cover girl. It will soon be past its splendid prime, but Kansas will stay beautiful in its own right throughout the year.
Don’t just fly over. If you do, you’ll miss not only the sunflowers, but the sunrises, the sunsets and everything beautiful in between.
Mom’s tastes were simple. The sunflower may be a simple weed indeed, but she knew that sometimes, simple is best.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Sunflower.