Perennial by fleshy roots and creeping rootstocks. Stems: erect, hispid, branched near the summit. Leaves: lanceolate, very rough above, pubescent beneath, serrate, acuminate at the apex, narrowed at the base. Flowers: rays spreading, entire; disk-flowers perfect, fertile; corolla tubular, the tube short, the limb five-lobed; involucre hemispheric, hirsute.
What the cultivated Sunflower is to the other dwellers in old-fashioned gardens the wild Giant Sunflower is to the other dwellers in the woodlands. It is the gorgeous ornament and lord of the locality, one of the most conspicuous of the many flowers that might fairly be designated by the term helios, "the sun," and anthos, "a flower"; for the yellow Asters, Gaillardias, Arnicas, and Ragworts are really all equally amenable to this title.
The Giant Sunflower has large blossoms, composed of numerous bright yellow rays and a disk of perfect fertile florets. The leaves are lance-shaped and very rough to the touch.
The Irish poet, Moore, referring to this flower as an emblem of constancy, has sung that "The Sunflower turns on her god when he sets The same look which she turn'd when he rose."
But fact, unfortunately, refuses to corroborate his romantic fancy for alas! the Helianthus does not turn its big golden flower-face from east to west to follow the course of the sun god, but, on the contrary, remains in the same position all day long.
In olden days, in Peru and Mexico, this flower occupied an important place both in the mythology and in the sculpture of the country, and also was employed as a mystic and sacred emblem by the inhabitants. The maidens who waited upon the sun god in the temple wore on their breasts representations of it executed in beaten gold, and it also was extensively cultivated in the gardens of the priests.
The ancient Greeks believed that the Helianthus was the incarnation of the nymph Clytie, who by reason of her great love for Apollo sat for nine days upon the ground intently gazing at the orb of day, until at length she became rooted to the earth and her face was transformed into the shining disk of the Sunflower.
All these legends tend, perhaps, to increase our interest in this handsome plant, whose brilliant-hued blossoms burn with a golden light in the mountain thickets and whose leaves make a waving of slight shadows across the land.
Both tubular and radiate flowers; receptacle flat; rays slightly toothed at the apex.