The Incredible Edible (Flower) Heads

As winter blows in and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) takes its toll, browsing pictures from warmer months might beat the cold weather blues. So please, enjoy!

A few weeks after peak sunflower season, keeping true to my “always late” policy in life, I went to Grinter Farm in Kansas. The Grinters are an incredible family who open their property to the public, so everyone can enjoy their impressive blossoms.
*If you visit, remember to bring some cash for the donation box.

Here’s a sweeping view of Grinter Farm:

Sunflowers are known for being a happy flower, but I beg to differ.

Kansas City Sunflowers / for the love of nike

Sure, they have their light and cheerful moments, but…

The moodiness of sunflowers makes them one of the most interesting plants on earth.

Kansas City Sunflowers / for the love of nike

Young sunflowers track the sun’s path across the sky, but if I didn’t know that, I would think these little guys were turning their backs on me like angry teenagers.

How can you look at these yellow beauties and not attribute emotions to them?
The creature above on the left looks a little depressed, and on the right there’s a shy guy.

It’s remarkable that some plants have circadian rhythms, tying them to a 24 hour internal clock.

In the morning, young sunflowers face east, awaiting the rising sun. Their faces gradually turn west as the hours pass. Once night falls, the flowers turn again and start the process over.

Mature sunflowers always face east.

Once their rate of growth slows, so does their daily movement. Instead, their permanent placement makes them more attractive to bees and other pollinators.

It’s hard to write about sunflowers without mentioning the artist who brought them into art museums across the world. Let’s take moment to browse through a few paintings from a series Vincent Van Gogh created in the 1880s.

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers:

In a letter to his brother, Vincent wrote:

“The sunflower is mine.”

Van Gogh wanted to be synonymous with sunflowers–and his wish was granted. When he died, several of his friends brought his favorite buds to the funeral.

But sunflowers have been the subject of plenty of paintings.

Sunflowers by Other Artists:

Vincent van Gogh Painting Sunflowers, Paul Gauguin 1888

It’s easy to see why so many great minds have been captured by these almost alienesque plants, whose petals, stems, and florets emote more than most living creatures.

Speaking of alienesque, sunflowers have been off planet earth. In 1983, the shuttle carried seedlings to the space station to study whether or not nutation (where the plant’s tip rotates downward as it grows) happens due to gravity.

Turns out, the seedlings rotate as they grow whether gravity is present or not.

The disc florets, spread across the head of each sunflower, and ray florets, the petal-like ring around the head, are mesmerizing with their Fibonacci sequence.

Sunflowers are hyperaccumulators.

In fact, scientists are now using them to help clean radiation sites.

hyperaccumulator (ˌhaɪpərəˈkjuːmjʊˌleɪtə)


  1. a plant that absorbs toxins, such as heavy metals, to a greater concentration than that in the soil in which it is growing
Kansas City Sunflowers / for the love of nike

Sunflowers range in height, but the tallest ever recorded is 30 feet and 1 inch tall! It was grown by Hans-Peter Schiffer in Germany. This guy is a tall-flower-expert. He’s held the title on 3 different occasions.

The head of a sunflower is actually made up of thousands of tiny flowers.

Each sunflower can have as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds.

Sunflowers are native to the Americas–

dating back to 3000 BC, when they were largely used for food, medicine, and dye.

Kansas City Sunflowers / for the love of nike

In fact, much of the sunflower is edible:

  • Seedlings and sprouts are quite tasty when they’re under about 6 inches tall.
  • The leaves of older plants can be eaten alone or added into a salad.
  • Buds can be harvested and boiled.
  • After the flower has opened, the petals can be edible.
  • Young stalks can be peeled and eaten like celery.
  • And of course, you can eat the seeds straight from the head of a sunflower.

Lessons to learn from these moody yellow beauties:

  • always find and follow the sun
  • don’t allow the toxicity around you affect you
  • see all parts of yourself as productive
  • be emotive
  • go to space!

Kansas City Sunflowers / for the love of nike
a stowaway tried to leave the farm with me

So as winter creeps by, keep your chin up and your eyes full of sights.

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.

-Van Gogh

and next year, I’ll do a better job of visiting Grinter Farm during the height of bloom. Stay tuned.