Available the world over and represented in cultures dating back to Ancient Greece is the humble sunflower. 🌞
Originally a food source, sunflowers are native to North America and date back to about 3000BC. By the early 19th century, Russian farmers were growing over 2 million acres of sunflower for oil production.
Its scientific name, Helianthus, combines the two Greek words for sun and flower. Various cultures considered sunflower as the symbol of the god of the Sun. In the early morning sunflower turns its flowers toward the sun in the east, monitors its path during the day to the west, so that when the Sun goes down its blossoming head is as if sleeping. According to this characteristic, the sunflower was named.
Sunflowers have also been used by countless artists. Van Gogh’s Sunflower series, which includes Vase With Twelve Sunflowers, Two Cut Sunflowers, and Four Cut Sunflowers. Ai WeiWei was also inspired by the flowers in his Sunflower Seeds exhibit, an installation of millions of porcelain seeds handcrafted by specialists working in small-scale workshops in China, symbolizing the relationship between the individual and the masses.
The sunflower has several suggested meanings that are all linked to the positivity and optimistic nature of a sunflower.
Long life - several varieties of this flower that can endure some of the warmest days of summer by standing tall. This flower can also be considered as a symbol of endurance and strength to persevere through hardest moments.
Loyalty - a symbol of loyalty towards your friends, family or partner, by giving this flower to someone; you are saying that you are a loyal person and that they can ask for your help any time.
Optimism - reminds us to always look on the brighter side of life (literarily) and that there is always hope even in the darkest moments.
Good luck - Sunflowers represent the plant of immortality for the Chinese and symbolizes long life and happiness, and its yellow colour signifies vitality and intelligence.
Aztecs crowned their priests of the sun god with sunflower flowers. And the Mayans highly respected this flower and for them it was a flower of fertility and light. In the diet they used seeds, stems and leaves of sunflower, and prepared tea from his petals.
There are many version of the Greek story. One version is the Greek water nymph, Clytie, fell in love with the Sun God called Apollo but the love was not returned. In time, the other Greek Gods felt sorry for Clytie, changing her into a beautiful flower, a sunflower, as this was kinder than leaving her as she was. Clytie the sunflower always looked towards Apollo, the Sun God. This was then how all sunflowers came to follow the path of the sun.
Sunflowers are often given on 3rd year wedding anniversaries as signs of adoration, loyalty, and strength.
“I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.” Helen Mirren