Nature Notes – Sunflowers can grow 8 to 9 feet tall

By Jim Gilbert

Big mostly yellow sunflowers are now seen in gardens.
Each large flower is not a single flower but rather a whole bouquet. The giant garden sunflower is related to the native annual sunflower that was first cultivated by Native Americans for its edible seeds.
In nature the flowers are only a few inches in diameter, but cultivated varieties sometimes exceed 12 inches across. The plants easily grow 8 or 9 feet tall. A massive flower head, made up of hundreds of small brownish disk flowers, is surrounded by yellow flowers called ray flowers. Although flowers normally serve to produce seeds, the ray flowers, also called banner flowers, of the sunflower are sterile; apparently their only function is to attract insects.
So the disk flowers in the center of the head, each one small and inconspicuous in itself, attend to pollination and the production of seed.
Green plants are phototrophic and respond by growing toward the source of light.
Many plants, particularly in early stages of growth, bend toward the east in the morning and toward the west in the evening, and the sunflowers show this tendency also.
But once the flower head opens, it no longer turns toward the source of light, and so the heads of the sunflowers end up facing east the whole day.

What’s happening outdoors now?
Both yellow and white water lilies can be seen blooming in shallow lake and pond waters. The purple loosestrife has vibrant flowers in marshes and other low spots. It’s a weed but beautiful. When on a picnic or out in a boat, the fly that gives you the painful bite about the ankles is a stable fly not a house fly.
House flies, which have recently become a nuisance, have lapping mouth parts and can’t bite us; however, they are the infamous germ carriers.

On Aug. 8 a year ago
We had mostly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 80 degrees F.
Much pollen was being shed from the green flowers of common ragweeds. Canada goldenrods displayed their showy bright yellow flowers that do not cause hay fever symptoms. The annual vine called wild cucumber was loaded with mounds of white flowers. Corn and soybean fields looked good.
Garden roses had fantastic blossoms, maybe even better than the June peak. Apple growers were picking a variety called Williams Pride. Baltimore orioles continued to come to feeding stations for grape jelly and sugar water.