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The sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is an annual plant grown as a crop for its edible oil and edible fruits

(commonly called "sunflower seeds"). Sunflower is also used as bird food, as livestock forage (as a meal
or a silage plant) and in some industrial applications. The plant was first domesticated in the Americas.
Wild Helianthus annuus is a widely branched annual plant with many flower heads. The domestic
sunflower, however, possesses a single large inflorescence (flower head) atop an unbranched stem. The
name sunflower derives from the flower head's shape, which resembles the Sun.
Sunflower seeds were brought to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, where, along
with sunflower oil, they became a widespread cooking ingredient.
Head displaying florets in spirals of 34 and 55 around the outside
The plant has an erect rough-hairy stem, reaching typical heights of 3 meters. The tallest sunflower on
record achieved 8.23 m (27 ft).
[1]
Sunflower leaves are broad, coarsely toothed, rough and mostly
alternate. What is often called the "flower" of the sunflower is actually a "flower head" (or flower heads) of
numerous small individual 5=petaled flowers (florets). The outer flowers which resemble petals are called
ray flowers. Each "petal" consists of a ligule composed of fused petals of an asymmmetrical ray flower.
They are sterile and can be yellow, red, orange, or other colors. The flowers in the center of the head are
called disk flowers. These mature into fruits (sunflower "seeds"). The disk flowers are arranged spirally.
Generally, each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 137.5, producing a
pattern of interconnecting spirals, where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are
successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically, there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; on a
very large sunflower there could be 89 in one direction and 144 in the other.
[2][3][4]
This pattern produces
the most efficient packing of seeds within the flower head.
[5][6][7]

Most cultivars of sunflower are variants of Helianthus annuus, but four other species (all perennials) are
also domesticated. This includes H. tuberosus, the Jerusalem Artichoke, which produces edible tubers.
Genome[edit]
The sunflower, Helianthus annuus, genome is diploid with a base chromosome number of 17
and an estimated genome size of 28713189 Mbp.
[10][11]
Some sources claim its true size is
around 3.5 billion base pairs (slightly larger than the human genome).
[12]

Cultivation and uses[edit]


A sunflower seed dehulled (left) and with hull (right)


Detail of disk florets

A field of sunflowers at Cardejn, Spain


Worldwide sunflower output
To grow best, sunflowers need full sun. They grow best in fertile, moist, well-drainedsoil with
heavy mulch. In commercial planting, seeds are planted 45 cm (1.5 ft.) apart and 2.5 cm (1 in)
deep. Sunflower "whole seed" (fruit) are sold as a snack food, raw or after roasting in ovens, with
or without salt and/or seasonings added. Sunflowers can be processed into a peanut butter
alternative, sunflower butter. In Germany, it is mixed with rye flour to
make Sonnenblumenkernbrot (literally: sunflower whole seed bread), which is quite popular in
German-speaking Europe. It is also sold as food for birds and can be used directly in cooking
and salads. American Indians had multiple uses for sunflowers in the past, such as in bread,
medical ointments, dyes and body paints.
[13]

Sunflower oil, extracted from the seeds, is used for cooking, as a carrier oil and to
produce margarine and biodiesel, as it is cheaper than olive oil. A range of sunflower varieties
exist with differing fatty acid compositions; some 'high oleic' types contain a higher level of
monounsaturated fats in their oil than even olive oil.
The cake remaining after the seeds have been processed for oil is used as a livestock feed.
Some recently developed cultivarshave drooping heads. These cultivars are less attractive
to gardeners growing the flowers as ornamental plants, but appeal to farmers, because they
reduce bird damage and losses from some plant diseases. Sunflowers also produce latex, and
are the subject of experiments to improve their suitability as an alternative crop for
producing nonallergenic rubber.
Traditionally, several Native American groups planted sunflowers on the north edges of their
gardens as a "fourth sister" to the better known three sisters combination of corn, beans,
and squash.
[14]
Annual species are often planted for their allelopathicproperties.
[15]

However, for commercial farmers growing commodity crops, the sunflower, like any other
unwanted plant, is often considered aweed. Especially in the Midwestern US, wild (perennial)
species are often found in corn and soybean fields and can have a negative impact on yields.
Sunflowers can be used in phytoremediation to extract toxic ingredients from soil, such as lead,
arsenic and uranium, and used in rhizofiltration to neutralize radionuclides and other toxic
ingredients and harmful bacteria from water. They were used to remove caesium-137 and
strontium-90 from a nearby pond after the Chernobyl disaster,
[16]
and a similar campaign was
mounted in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
[17][18]