If you drove past one of our fields this morning, you may have noticed that all of the short-statured sunflowers were facing the same direction - East. And this evening, they will continue to face the same direction.... but it wont be East!
I can hear your thoughts as I write this, "What? She has got to be pulling my leg. No way can those flowers turn their heads!"
However, I kid you not. Actually, up until the sunflowers are in full bloom, the heads will face wherever the sun is located. Since the sun rises in the East, the sunflowers start their morning eastward facing and then slowly turn their heads towards the West as the sun sets. During the evening, the heads will continue to rotate until they are back to their eastward-facing position by sunrise.
The scientific term for this is called "heliotropism."
Heliotropism is the seasonal motion of plants (or plant parts) in response to the sun. You guessed it, the sunflower bud acts as a heliotropic plant. Pretty awesome, huh?! So Nebraska may not be considered the "tropics," but no one can argue that we are farmers in the beautiful heliotropics!
So how do those sunflowers actually turn their heads?
The rotating head has to do with stem growth. When plants track the sun during the day, the east side of the stem is growing which tilts it to the west. During the night, the west side of the stem is growing which tilts it back to the east. So just imagine that sunflower field is actually gym class and they are doing stretches 24/7 - 12 hours to the east and 12 hours to the west, growing inch by inch.
But then, they gain weight....
Within a few days, our short-statured sunflower heads will no longer follow the sun. Actually, our conventional-height sunflowers have already stopped following the sun and are now east-facing 100% of the time. Why you may ask? We planted our short-statured sunflowers one week after the conventional-height plants - therefore the conventional-height sunflowers are further along in the growth process and are now east-facing. When the sunflower begins to fully bloom, the head gets heavier as the seeds begin to grow and fill with oil - so it no longer turns to the sun. It decides to settle down and face east for the rest of it's life.
Sunflowers react more to sunlight in the early morning (east-facing) than in the afternoon or evening (west-facing). In addition to this, east-facing flowers attract up to five times more pollinators (bees) than west-facing flowers simply because bees like warmth! Yes, bees are an important part of the sunflower's growth. Bring on the pollinators!
Want to know what happens next?! Cliff hanger... Stay tuned and beware of the bees!
In the meantime, don't forget to grab yourself a bottle of Simply Sunflower All Natural Oil! Check out our locations tab to find where it's available near you.
The Simply Sunflower Team