Helianthus annuus is the sunflower's scientific name derived from helios, the Greek word for sun, and anthos, the Greek word for flower (annuus indicates that it is an annual plant). The sunflower's name is believed to have been based on appearance as well as behavior. First it looks a little like the kind of sun you drew when you were in kindergarten, and second, young sunflowers are heliotropic, which means they change their orientation from east to west "following the sun" during the day, a process which is reversed overnight. (Heliotropism is really very interesting and complex; if you're interested in knowing more on how this takes place check this out.)
As I mentioned in the last post, a sunflower's flower head is really a composite flower consisting of 1,000-2,000 florets which are arranged in a spiral pattern. "Typically, each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 137.5°, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals ..." according to Wikipedia, and this pattern produces the most efficient packing of the seeds in the flower head. This is the source of those nutritious seeds we eat as snacks, the ones that also make the sunflower oil used in cooking.
Helianthus annuus - the common sunflower is complex in its structure and habits, has been useful and nutritious for millennia, and is beautifully photogenic on the whole and in the details. I must thank those faithful followers who mentioned that sunflowers follow the sun, I didn't know that and it peaked my curiosity. "How do they do that?" Thus I researched and learned more about this complicated photographic subject.
Photos and Slide Show by Claudia Ward
Music: You Are My Sunshine by Lisa Derosia from Songs for Wiggleworms
I hope you enjoy the slide show. Send new facts, if you have any ... I love to learn!