I suppose I've always taken sunflowers for granted. As a Kansas native, these sunshiny flowers have become part of my peripheral vision as I motor down the road in the summer, usually in a hurry to get to where I'm going.
In our immediate area, they seem a little less plentiful as ditches have narrowed or been mowed. So as we were traveling down a more secluded dirt road in our Gator and I saw the blanket of sunflowers stretching toward the horizon, I wanted my chauffeur to stop. The national parks have scenic overlooks. I could do a make-your-own version, Kansas-style.
Summertime is sunflower time in Kansas. And even though our Iowa
friends may believe it's a noxious weed, it's our noxious weed, thank
you very much (with apologies to my son-in-law's Iowa family). The genus Helianthus comes from the Greek "helios" meaning "sun" and "anthos" meaning "flower." The species "annuus" means "annual."
The sunflower grows in every Kansas county due to its adaptability to soils from sand to clay and its toleration of dry to medium moist soils. In the summer and early fall, the yellow flowers give the prairies and roadsides a golden glow.
|From the Kim's County Line archives|
Sunflowers were cultivated in North America as far back as 3000 BC and were introduced to the rest of the world by Spanish Conquistadors in 1500.
According to an article in The Hutchinson News by Steve Gilliland, in 1901, George Morehouse, a state senator from Council Grove, attended a rodeo in Colorado Springs where all the Kansas folks in attendance wore sunflowers identifying them as Kansans. Morehouse was so moved and inspired by the Kansas spirit, that upon returning home, he drafted the bill naming the sunflower as our state flower. It was adopted in 1903.
So, this year, it's especially appropriate to celebrate the sunflower, since it's the 120th anniversary of its status as official state flower. The 1903 proclamation said it was chosen for "its strong, distinct disk and its golden circle of clear, glowing rays."
In this original bill, Morehouse also stated:
“This flower has to all Kansans an historical symbolism which speaks of frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairie and is full of the life and glory of the past, the pride of the present and richly emblematic of the majesty of the golden future, and is a flower which has given Kansas the world-wide name “The Sunflower State.”
I've transitioned to my sunflower decor in my living room. So I have sunflowers "blooming" all around me.
The last several blog posts, I've reported on tourist spots in Iowa, Chicago and Missouri. We enjoyed those travels. But we are pretty fond of Kansas, too.