Like a single sunbeam on a warm day, there is exuberance and brilliance in the sunflower. Its botanical name is Helianthus - helios (the sun) and anthos (flower).
Sunflowers are quick and easy to grow, needing only 90 to 100 days from planting to maturity. The sunflower blossoms turn and follow the sun's movement, a phenomenon known as heliotropism.
"Beauty will save the world," wrote great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
The Aztecs of Peru wrought sunflowers in pure gold as a reverent temple decoration. Peter the Great introduced the versatile plant to Russia in the 16th century as a valuable source for food and oil. Hopi Indians carved wooden sunflowers and held them as sacred objects to warm the earth and bring the rain.
Sunflower seeds, at 163 calories an ounce, are dried before eating and add a nutty sweetness to recipes. Richer in vitamin E than any other food, studies show that vitamin E curbs the risk of heart disease, some cancers, cataracts, and may even prevent angina and muscle damage.
Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh painted bold and distinctive sunflowers because he felt they symbolized gratitude--to his brother Theo for support, the artist Gauguin for friendship, and the sun for light and warmth. "Yellow," he said, "is capable of charming God."
Let your spectacular heart bloom like a radiant sunflower.