Scientific Name: Helianthus (genus)

Fact Box:

  • Order: Asterales
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Genus: Helianthus


Helianthus is a genus of about seventy species, ranging from the showy Helianthus annuus (common sunflower) to the shrub-like Helianthus porteri (Confederate daisy).

Native to the Americas, common sunflowers have hairy, green stems that usually reach up to about ten feet (three meters) tall. Known to have flowers that follow the sun, sunflowers actually only display heliotropic motion (demonstration) when they are still buds — after blooming, the flower’s stem stiffens.


From snacking on roasted sunflower seeds to frying with sunflower oil, there are many ways sunflowers are used. For those with peanut or tree nut allergies, sunflower seed butter may be the best substitute. Furthermore, a yellow dye can be produced by soaking the flower head.


The tallest sunflower was grown in Germany, and reached a shocking 30 feet and one inch (9.17 meters) tall! The sunflower is also known for its beautiful spiral pattern of seeds. In fact, this pattern is an example of the Fibonacci sequence, where each number is the sum of the two numbers before it. Another interesting fact is that “Sunflowers” is a famous painting by the Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh.

The flower head has long, outer petals and small florets near the center.