Every year a small patch of wild sunflowers pops up in my front yard. And every year I’m amazed at how many living things use them for food and shelter. Take last week:
One flower had this teeny, tiny praying mantis nymph.
This flower was so popular, it had a skipper butterfly and a digger bee. Can you see the bee?
Every morning a small flock of lesser goldfinches hang from the sunflower seed heads, pulling out the seeds. I have never gotten a good photo or video, but this is what they look like:
The birds drop and scatter enough seeds so that next year there’s sure to be another patch of sunflowers sprouting up.
Do you grow sunflowers? What visitors do you see?
Today we have a bit of a mystery in our sunflowers.
Most of the flowers look like this:
This flower is different:
Yes, there is still a bee collecting nectar and pollen.
But there are some clues that another insect is hiding in this flower as well as the bee.
Any ideas what kind of insect is in this sunflower besides the bee?
Did you identify the mystery seeds last week as sunflower seeds?
In fact they were the black oil sunflower seeds sold as bird food. Those grow pretty easily.
Did you know sunflowers were originally from the New World? There are about 80 different species, including the so-called Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus. The wild kinds often have many small flowers, and many are perennials.
The lesser goldfinches were having a field day in these sunflowers.
There are a lot of different varieties of annual sunflowers (Helianthus annuus).
This is a Lemon Queen, grown for the Great Sunflower Project last year.
Many animals benefit from the flowers and seeds.
Many bees and other insects enjoy the pollen and nectar from the flowers.
Of course, people enjoy eating sunflower seeds, too. Have you ever had sunflower seed butter? It is a nice change of pace from peanut butter.
Sunflowers are cool because the buds of some varieties follow the sun throughout the day. As the flowers start to produce seed, however, I’ve noticed that they tend to stop moving. Often they begin to drop downwards.
Here in Arizona sunflowers will grow throughout the year and they are pretty drought tolerant, too.
Have you grown sunflowers? What varieties are your favorites?
If not, you should give them a try.