Stem. - Rough or hairy, from three to ten feet high, branched above. Leaves. - Lance-shaped, pointed, rough to the touch, set close to the stem. Flower-heads. - Yellow, composed of both ray and disk-flowers.
In late summer many of our lanes are hedged by this beautiful plant, which, like other members of its family, lifts its yellow flowers sunward in pale imitation of the great lifegiver itself. We have twenty-two different species of sunflower. H. divaricatus is of a lower growth, with opposite, widely spreading leaves and larger flower-heads. H. annuus is the garden species familiar to all; this is said to be a native of Peru. Mr. Ellwanger writes regarding it: "In the mythology of the ancient Peruvians it occupied an important place, and was employed as a mystic decoration in ancient Mexican sculpture. Like the lotus of the East, it is equally a sacred and an artistic emblem, figuring in the symbolism of Mexico and Peru, where the Spaniards found it rearing its aspiring stalk in the fields, and serving in the temples as a sign and a decoration, the sun-god's officiating handmaidens wearing upon their breasts representations of the sacred flower in beaten gold."
Plate LVII. Wild Sunflower. - H. giganteus
Gerarde describes it as follows: "The Indian Sun or the golden floure of Peru is a plant of such stature and talnesse that in one Sommer, being sowne of a seede in April, it hath risen up to the height of fourteen foot in my garden, where one floure was in weight three pound and two ounces, and crosse over-thwart the floure by measure sixteen inches broad."
The generic name is from helios - the sun, and anthos - a flower.