Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sunflowers - the Kansas State Flower
A sunflower is not a sissy flower in any way. It is tall and tough and handsome, rather than beautiful. You can not easily pick a bloom with your bare hands. It does not have a perfume or fragrance. Its bold yellow blossoms make their own statement.
The plants usually grow about seven feet tall, but I have seen them standing easily over ten feet, and taller. Another thing I have noticed is that each blossom gets its own stem and space. A sunflower does not bunch its blossoms up, shortchanging some of them the way a more delicate plant might do. Like the entire state of Kansas, there is room in a sunflower plant for everyone.
The plants grow straight upward as a sturdy, fibrous stalk. It has large rough leaves, and like big blue stem grass, it is well suited to the weather conditions of the prairie. Though I have lived in Kansas all of my life, I have taken the presence of sunflowers for granted. I have not paid attention to the weather conditions that favor a large population of sunflowers. There are some sunflowers every season, but in some years there is an abundance of them. They exist in the landscape like a glowing beacon. A stand of blooming sunflowers is visible for miles. The color of sunflowers is what I consider the purest color of yellow. It is genuine, bona fide yellow.
I am not aware of any mammal that will eat sunflowers but there is always some species of small ants on them. Grasshoppers will eat the leaves, and birds eat the seeds. The blossoms tend to follow the direction of the sun. A single plant will grow equally out in all directions if it has room. It is a large, open and balanced plant. It is an opportunist and a survivor. In a seam of concrete on an overpass in downtown Topeka one fall, there was a lone stalk about twelve inches tall with a single blossom inches from the thousands of wheels in the daily onslaught of traffic.
Of all things that are under the threat of extinction in Kansas, the sunflower is not among them. And that is good.