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A Closer Look at Sunflowers

Cheery sunflowers can be found growing in home gardens and farm fields. Take some time to enjoy the beauty and fine details of this North American native plant.

What we call the flower is actually made of 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers. The large petals are in fact infertile ray flowers that do not develop into seeds. The center consists of disk flowers that develop into seeds after pollination.

Double sunflower varieties have more petal-like ray flowers, making them an eye-catching addition to the garden and bouquets. But there will be less nectar for pollinators and fewer seeds for you, the birds, and squirrels to enjoy.

While you wait for the tasty harvest, watch your sunflowers track the sun. This characteristic, known as heliotropism, occurs in most sunflowers. The tracking stops when the flowers are fully developed, leaving them facing east.

A bit more information: You may find sunflowers growing with other plants as a cover crop. They help attract beneficial insects and feed the birds. Their deep roots help improve the soil when included in a cover crop mix.

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