I Follow The Sun(Flower)

By Mary H. Dyer | March 12, 2021
Image by Liz W Grogan
by Mary H. Dyer
March 12, 2021

When asked if I could be any flower, I don’t have to think twice: I would be a sunflower.

I often turn my face towards the sun (with plenty of SPF 30 sunscreen and a floppy hat, of course) because I love to feel the warmth on my face. The sunflower also turns its face to the sun. I needed a little quick research to understand why this happens.

What Is Heliotropism

This phenomenon, known as heliotropism, is one of nature’s wonders. (Tropism: to turn). Young sunflowers follow the sun throughout the day, looking east in the morning, then watching the evening sun go down in the west. This happens dependably, even on cloudy, rainy days. 

Sunflowers nearly always face west at maturity, when their heads are heavier and their stems are firmer. When the blooms face east, they warm up faster and they attract more bees, which are by far their most important pollinator. Sunflowers are capable of self-pollinating, but bees do a much better job.

Sunflower Facts

Unlike many flowers, sunflowers develop a single bloom on each stem. This would typically be a disadvantage when it comes to pollination, but the sheer size and color of the flowers make up for any deficits. Bees love the bright blooms and the florets filled with sweet, sun-warmed nectar.

There’s one more reason I would be a sunflower (other than the simple fact that they’re so cheerful and beautiful). I love birds, and birds love sunflowers. One sunflower bloom can contain up to 2,000 tiny florets, which become seeds that sustain songbirds. The seeds are loved by at least 40 species, including chickadees, finches, pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, and some types of woodpeckers.

Historians think the Aztecs worshipped sunflowers, believing them to be the physical incarnation of the sun gods. Makes perfect sense to me.

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