The chances are, you have come across the Sunflower once or twice in your life. It’s not very rare, however, it’s beautiful, tall, and majestic and is a symbol to many people for different reasons. Its symbolism strengthens with how easy they are to grow in your backyard or a patio container and it can be your perfect little representation of the sun right at home.
Moreover, it can also be a birth flower and has developed an array of unique meanings across the world. We look at some of these meanings in this article and analyze its deep symbolism as well as look at the botanical characteristics, etymological meaning, and fun facts.
So, read on to find out all you need to know about the sunflower!
What Does The Sunflower Mean?
Sunflowers have a distinctive and bright appearance and were first grown in Central and South America. However, they were first grown for their usefulness as opposed to their beauty.
However, the combination of their beauty and utility is why they have developed such rich symbolism over the years. The Impressionist period of art is famous for its fascination with the flower and today it is still so often painted or photographed to be admired for its beauty.
The sunflower has developed a range of different meanings across the globe as it has spread and grown into the modern age. Many cultures share the same views on the flower due to its prominent physical characteristics.
They can mean a long life since most varieties will stand in bloom for several months, even during the hottest months in summer. They can also mean feelings of adoration and platonic love toward a person, which links to how they symbolize loyalty and strong bonds between people.
This is represented by their tall, strong stem. They can also help you seek out positivity and strength as the blooms turn and face the sun and help you nourish yourself and others as the sunflower produces a range of edible seeds.
Finally, they can be a way of brightening your mood through the vibrancy of their orange and yellow petals, and in Chinese culture, they are a symbol of good luck and lasting happiness.
Etymological Meaning Of The Sunflower
The name ‘Sunflower’ in English comes from its bright and colorful sun-like appearance. It has a scientific name that is Helianthus, yet this is similarly literal as it combines the Greek words for sun and flower.
The literal meaning for the word is that it is a flower of the sun. Heliod was the Greek sun god and Anthos was a Greek name commonly used for boys. Helianthus Ammuus is the common sunflower and they come from the family, Asteraceae.
In Greek mythology, the Sunflower earned its name from the nymph, Clytie’s adoration towards Apollo, the god of the Sun. In the beginning, this love was given back, however, another nymph caught his attention and his affections began to turn.
As a result of this, Clytie informed the other nymph’s father in a rage, and in response, he buried her alive as punishment. In anger, Apollo turned Clytie into a Sunflower.
After he had done this, however, her feelings for him did not budge and she watched as he traveled across the sky, similar to how sunflowers supposedly follow the sun as it moves above.
The Symbolism Of The Sunflower
Their popularity and history mean the Sunflower has plenty of rich symbolism. The sunflower will turn to face the sun and their open face symbolizes the sun whilst conveying warmth, happiness, adoration, and longevity.
In China, since the sun is perceived to have an enduring life despite the fact it will one day die out, the flower represents long life and longevity.
The Sunflower symbolizes steadfast loyalty, adoration, and everlasting faith. Even though science has proven the flower does not follow the sun all through the day, this is what people think of when they think of the flower, and this ties in with dedicated love, devotion, and adoration.
The flower symbolizes optimism and happiness and their shape and bright yellow colors are symbolic of the sun. This celebrates radiance and positivity, making them perfect for happy occasions such as weddings, birthdays, and engagement parties.
The Sunflower is a representation of peace and hope and many years ago, the flower was used to symbolize a nuclear-free world. Some of the flowers were planted near the missile bases in Ukraine, to try and clean up the environment.
They were successful in doing so, and they managed to absorb harmful toxins. They are thought to signal hope for future generations.
Finally, the Sunflower also symbolized good luck and fortune and in dreams, the flower is known to be a lucky motif or sign. It symbolizes career and employments ambitions, good fortune, wealth, and growth opportunities.
The flower is therefore a lucky charm and a great gift to someone who is starting a new career or a new job.
Sunflower Color Meanings
A typical Sunflower is usually yellow, and this is what most people think of when they picture the flower. However, there are several other colors available and as with any flower, the color determines its symbolism.
Red sunflowers are rather unusual, however, they share the same appearance as the yellow kind and they are believed to be a symbol of strength and positivity.
Orange Sunflowers are a sign of happiness, optimism, and energy, whilst yellow sunflowers are seen as a symbol of purity, long life, and peace.
Other colors include brown, white, and multicolored varieties and they exist in the wild and through careful breeding.
Different color variations mean a connection with innocence if they have white or cream petals and if they have brown and burgundy flowers, these tie in with loyalty and support.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Sunflower
The Sunflower is a heliotropic flower and this means it is a species that tracks or follows the movement of the sun as it travels from East to West. However, it is just a myth that the Sunflower always follows the movement of the sun and research shows it is only the buds and leaves of the flower that display sun turning behavior.
Once the plant’s head has come into bloom to display its petals, it is not heliotropic anymore and remains fixed towards the East, where the sun rises. This behavioral pattern is scientific and relates to the stem cells located underneath the buds.
The leaves of the Sunflower are phototropic. Phototropic means the flowers are responding to growth in the direction of a light source, which translates to growth in the direction of the sun.
Special Occasions For The Sunflower
The Sunflower is a perfect gift for any occasion and is a great flower if you simply want to make someone smile. They are given to couples to celebrate their third anniversary and they are also gifted on National Friendship Day.
The bright color of the flower can be contagious and if you surprise someone with a bouquet of Sunflowers, you will instantly provide them with joy and happiness.
Since they spread so much hope and optimism, they are also great to gift someone on their graduation or birthday or another occasion where you want to tell someone special to you to head for success and always search for happiness.
Sunflower Cultural Significance
The natives of the Inca Empire were known for worshipping a giant sunflower and Incan priestesses used to wear large sunflower disks of gold on their garments. Images of the flowers were found in the temples of the Andes mountains and Native American Indians used bowls of sunflower seeds to put on the graves of those who has passed.
Native Americans also used this plant for food and other uses. It was an extremely important Native American crop and they often held spiritual ceremonies such as the Sun Dance. This meant as well as being used as food, it also became a symbol of endurance and strength.
In the 1700s, the Sunflower became popular in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine, and in Russia, it was the second-biggest consumer of sunflower seed oil in the world.
In the US, the flower is still as popular and is a major oil crop for the country, as well as in the international market. As flowers are one of the main global oilseed crops, the seeds are still consumed in most places and the oils are used to treat coughs, treat wounds and lower cholesterol.
The flower is also the state flower of Kansas.
Moreover, Sunflowers have been used by many famous artists. The most famous piece of Sunflower art is the Sunflower series by Van Gogh and this includes the Vase With Twelve Sunflowers, Two Cut Sunflowers, and Four Cut Sunflowers.
Ai WeiWei is also the wonder of the Sunflower Seeds Exhibit and this is an installation of million of porcelain seeds that have been crafted by specialists that work in small-scale workshops in Chine. These symbolize the relationship between the individual and the masses.
Sunflower Flower Facts
- The Sunflower is the 3rd wedding anniversary flower.
- The Sunflower turns to follow the sun.
- The Sunflower is native to North America. However, it has spread throughout the world via export.
- Native Americans planted wild Sunflowers and used them as a food source, yet modern breeding programs have focused on petal size and the count over seed production in several different varieties.
- The flower ranges in height from just 6 inches to 12 feet tall and this will depend on the variety.
Sunflower Flower Uses
Whilst being a major oil crop for countries around the world, the Sunflower has multiple other purposes. Moreover, the oil has also been used for skincare and haircare as it has so many vitamins in it.
They are used as seeds for both birds and humans. They provide lots of vitamins A, B, E as well as iron, calcium, and protein. The seeds can also be ground and added to baking flour.
Sunflower seeds are used in commercial birdseed too and the leaves are used as feed for livestock. If you do not eat the seeds, you can feed local songbirds by letting them dry on the stalk.
One lesser-known use of the flower is that it removes radiation from water and soil where they are planted. They even helped to clean up after the Chernobyl disaster.
Sunflowers have been used as herbal medicine but this is no longer a common practice. Natives used the petals and leaves to make tea and this tea is diuretic, and expectorant, whilst also used to treat high fevers.
The leaves were also crushed and used to treat spider and snake bites or swellings and other sores. Moreover, the roots have been used to make a wash to use to manage rheumatic pains.
In Asian and European countries, Sunflowers are an inspiration for many famous art pieces.
What Is The Symbolism Of A Sunflower Flower Tattoo?
As Sunflowers are known for being strikingly bold and beautiful, they make excellent tattoos. Choose either brown, green, or yellow ink and it will certainly stand out over other tattoos, especially with the Sunflower’s defined shape.
The tattoo will usually have a personal meaning depending on the wearer, but in general, the meaning of a Sunflower is linked with themes of happiness, hope, and good luck.
You might want to get a Sunflower tattoo to remember someone special. If you have a relative or a friend who has been obsessed with the flower in the past, a tattoo could be a great way of remembering them if they have passed. Alternatively, you could get a matching Sunflower tattoo with a friend.
You might get a Sunflower tattoo if you want to spread a little positivity in your life. To do this, try and get the tattoo on your arm or even your hand so it is always visible to others around you.
You also might want to get a Sunflower tattoo to stay hopeful. As the Sunflower constantly looks to the sky, it might be a good way to remind yourself that you can too.
Sunflowers are a reminder you should stay optimistic as it follows the sun but remains tall on cloudy days. When there is not enough water, the Sunflower continues thriving and is eager to push out its beautiful petals. Therefore, it is the perfect tattoo if you need a little encouragement.
We hope you’ve learned everything you need to know about the Sunflower after reading this article and realize that it is a tall, powerful flower with some rich symbolism. They are highly recognized and they are known for their sun-like heads and their elongated rough stems.
The meaning behind the flowers will differ across the different cultures, yet they are generally known to associate themselves with joy, peace, loyalty, and happiness. If you ever need cheering up, or you are looking for a way to spread some cheer to a friend, gifting them a sunflower is a perfect option!
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