Today the heads of my sunflowers opened. We have the tallest sunflowers with the thickest stalks. They are about 8 inches higher than my head and I’m 5’6″. Sunflowers are native to Central America and they were first domesticated in Mexico in 2600 B.C.E. Some believe they were brought from Mexico to the Mississippi Valley around 2300 B.C.E. Another source says they came to the Americas around 1000 B.C.E. Many indigenous American peoples used the sunflower as the symbol of their solar deity, including the Aztecs and the Otomi of Mexico and the Incas in South America. Francisco Pizarro was the first European to encounter the sunflower in Tahuantinsuyo, Peru. Gold images of the flower, as well as seeds, were taken back to Spain early in the 16th century. Some researchers argue that the Spaniards tried to suppress cultivation of the sunflower because of its association with solar religion and warfare.
In 18th century Russia Orthodoxy, sunflower oil was one of the few oils that was not prohibited during the season of Lent.
Much of the meaning of sunflowers stems from its namesake, the sun itself. Wild sunflowers are often photographed with their tall stalks and bright petals stretched towards the sun. This unique behavior, known as phototropism, is a motif that has appeared in many ancient myths and is viewed as a symbol of loyalty and constancy. Their physical resemblance to the sun has also influenced their meanings. The sunflower’s petals have been likened to bright yellow rays of sunshine, which evoke feelings of warmth and happiness. In addition, the sunflower is often associated with adoration and longevity.
I love the use of sunflowers in symbolic pieces of art and pop-culture. They are associated with peace and life and happiness. Today I had about 15 little three and four year old kids from the neighboring preschool with me in the garden. Of all the food we were growing, the kids loved the sunflowers best. I asked Maribel why she loved the sunflower best and she responded with, “it’s the prettiest flower in the whole garden.” I think she’s right. It reminds me that life grows int he darkest of places. Since the garden has been in operation in our neighborhood, the crime rate has decreased by 23%.
I hope you are filled with the peace and happiness of sunflowers throughout your week and if you get the chance or have the space, plant some sunflower seeds. I promise it’ll brighten your summer this year.