A Symbol of Summer – the Sunflower

The Three, No, Four Sisters

You may be familiar with the term “the Three Sisters,” staples of Native American gardens: Corn, Beans, Squash. In addition to these three staples in many of these prehistoric gardens there was a fourth “sister,” the Sunflower, Helianthus annuus. These bright yellow flowers were grown by ancient Americans for food, medicinal and religious uses.

Indigenous Americans would crush and grind the seeds, creating a type of flower used to make cakes and breads. Much as we use the seeds for snacks today, these prehistoric people would also simply eat the seeds. Medicinally the plant was used to treat sunstroke, as a snake bit remedy and for wart removal. Additionally the plant was also used to create yellow and purple dyes for body and pottery painting and for coloring textiles. In some ancient American cultures the sunflower was seen as a symbol of the sun god and used in their religious ceremonies.

The Spread to Europe

Spanish explorers returned to Europe with sunflower seeds in the 1500s. These bright yellow plants were first used in ornamental gardens in Madrid Spain around 1510. The spread into Europe continued as French and English explorers returned to the Old World with sunflower seeds. Over time the plant became a commercial crop, used for the production of vegetable oil and for a food source as well as an ornamental plant.

Modern Cultivation

Today these flowers are still grown commercially for the production of oil and seeds for snacking. The seeds are also sold as wild bird feed. Further more the stalks can be used as silage for feeding livestock. Commercial sunflower production peaked in the 1970s with an estimated five million acres devoted to this plant. Today US farmers plant around 1.4 million acres for the production of oil and seed. Of course this flower is still popular for ornamental plantings.

The Photographs

The images below were made along NC Highway 58 near Cape Carteret, North Carolina. The field is located along the causeway leading to Emerald Isle. In the summer the flowers offer a cheery welcome to tourist visiting this popular sea side community.

The eyes are delighted by a floood of green, yellow and brown while looking at this field of sunflowers Bees move from bloom to bloom, gathering nector and spreading pollen. Tourists crossing over the causeway to visit Emerald Isle are treated to a lovely, visual treat. It is summer along the Crytal Coast. Sunflowers are native to North America. Thiese bright flowers, however, have became popular world wide. For example they have been adopted as the National Flower of Ukraine. To many these bright yellow blooms are the perfect symbol of summer.
A few of this sunflower’s petals curve inward as if trying to cover its face. It gives the impression of this being a shy flower… one not wanting its photo taken! There is a small field of these brilliant yellow flowers along the causeway to Emerald Isle, North Carolina. They offer a warm sunny welcome to all those crossing over to this popular beach community.
Here’s a close, personal look at a lovely sunflower. The flower was found along the causeway leading to Emerald Isle North Carolina. The natural textures and patterns add interest to this fine art photo. Dominate colors are yellow and brown.

Learn more about sunflowers by visiting https://www.uspictures.com/sunflower-power/





A Symbol of Summer – the Sunflower Share on X
This entry was posted in General Photography, Landscape Photography, Macro Photography, Nature Photography, Uncategorized, Wildflowers.


  1. Katrina July 27, 2022 at 1:32 pm #

    A lovely collection of photos – I like the close-up best.

  2. Steve Heap July 27, 2022 at 1:57 pm #

    Clever use of the history and uses to broaden the Google appeal! I like the shy flower, very nicely seen. You do repeat the bit about the causeway to Emerald island three times. I’m sure you didn’t intend to do that.

  3. jim hughes July 27, 2022 at 4:46 pm #

    Such a wonderful plant, and obviously a nice photo subject – I really should have some in my yard.

  4. Anne Haile July 28, 2022 at 12:22 am #

    What an interesting read. I have just purchased a bunch of sunflowers ready to photograph, something which I like to do every year. Its good to know the history and facts behind there cheery flowers

  5. Pencil Paws July 29, 2022 at 1:30 am #

    So interesting, amazing images too. Love the shy one, will always think of that now when I see a sunflower with the petals turned inwards.

  6. Jim Cook July 30, 2022 at 3:31 pm #

    Love the flowers especially the shy one!

  7. Louis Dallara July 30, 2022 at 5:28 pm #

    Here is a link to my sunflower collection.

  8. Louis Dallara August 15, 2022 at 5:06 pm #

    Bob, I love your sunflower work, the images make me happy. I haven’t seen any this year.

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