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Are There Different Breeds Or Kinds Of Sunflowers?
The sunflower is one of of not the most loved flowers on earth. It doesnt have the grace of a lily, or the romance of a rose but the sheer cheerfulness will instantly brighten up your day.
Many people, when thinking of a sunflower, will picture it in full bloom with a bright yellow colour and staring pointedly into the sun. The truth is far different. Nature is never one dimensional and the sunflower has many hues with many people saying that sunflowers are the golden touch of Mother Nature.
In fact, just how many differing types of sunflowers are there? Well, that would all depend on what you are looking at. The wild sunflower has approximately 67 different species (and various subspecies), all of which can be found in the United States. Forty of these are found along the east of the Rocky Mountains, with the remainder scattered throughout the country.
The sunflower falls into the Helianthus (Helios sun, Anthos flower) L. genus family of flowers and its own name is the Helianthus Annus (or in lay terms Mirasol Sunflower). It is believed that the sunflower as we know it was first cultivated around 1000 BC, though it was considered an important food since at least 2300 BC.
As with many other cash crops, the sunflower is planted both to provide seed and to provide end product. When the sunflower is not cross pollinated, it becomes sterile and the seed is used for processing. The sterile seed has more oil than the fertile seed that is sold to farmers.
There are also many types of home-grown sunflowers reared to be small and manageable, complementing any garden and adding variety. These types have been heavily modified from the first sunflowers that arrived in Europe hundreds of years ago.
Take for example, the Teddy Bear Sunflower. It is small, has many flowers and looks like a fluffy cushion. Many people fall in love with this flower just because it is so fun to look at and many a garden is enhanced with the addition of a Teddy Bear strain sunflower. They are usually 2-3 feet in height and have multiple flowers per stalk. The Teddy Bear sunflower is considered one of the ultimate garden variety sunflowers available.
It is also a common misconception that all sunflowers are yellow. This is not true. There are red sunflowers, white sunflowers and even multi-colored sunflowers that resemble a ring of fire (unsurprisingly called Ring of Fire sunflowers). A widely praised variety is the Italian White Sunflower. This beautiful flower has, as its name suggests, white leaves though the beauty comes from the variations that can come from planting. There is something very moving when seeing a sunflower with pearly white leaves on the tips and close to the centre a soft, mildly yellow color that hints at its heritage. Italian White Sunflowers grow to about 4 feet in height and produce brilliant green foliage which only accentuates its wonderful white tips.
You are also able to buy seed mixes, which contain a variety of sunflower breeds and add spice to anyone who dislikes seeing the same color even in a garden. A wildly popular mix is the Autumn Beauty Mix sunflowers, which grow to about 5 feet in height and have colors that include golden yellow, bronze, brown and burgundy leaving anyone who walks in your garden with a wonderfully relaxed and satisfied feeling.
The most popular however, are the traditional large/giant varieties of sunflowers. These grow one leaf per stalk and range in size from 6 12 feet. They are truly immense in stature and are the breed used by cash crop farmers. They are also bred for competitions and the largest recorded sunflower is of this variety and the record-holder (grown in the Netherlands) measured a stunning 25 feet!
Whatever your interest in gardening, the sunflower is a superb addition to any garden. The versatility that sunflower seeds are renowned for also extend to its looks and many gardener would tell you that just having sunflowers in your garden is therapeutic not to mention having the extremely healthy sunflower seeds fresh for your kitchen!
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