Late summer and early autumn.
Flower-heads: terminal; solitary, and composed of both ray and disk flowers. Involucre: of two series of bract-like pointed leaves. Leaves: alternate; almost sessile; lanceolate; rough. Stem: upright; branched above; leafy; rough.
This sunflower is our common species of the north and we are familiar with seeing it along the roadsides, where it often forms a most gorgeous hedge.
H. mollis, plate CLXI, is found from Ohio southward and westward. It is one of the most beautiful of the family. The leaves are heart-ovate, opposite and clasping, and the whole plant is covered with a white wool, which gives it a misty look. It is quite remarkable how well the coloured plate represents this effect. The plant is from two to four feet high.
H. divaricatus has large showy flower-heads and opposite, ovate-lanceolate leaves that are rounded at the base. It is also partial to the roadsides and banks.
H. annus is the garden species with which we are all familiar. In Europe it is cultivated for its seeds, which are fed to sheep, pigs and poultry. They are also the principal food of parrots.
According to the mythological tradition of the Greeks the sunflower is none other than the fair water-nymph Clytie, who was transformed into the flower. When she found that her mad love for Apollo was not returned she grieved greatly, and sat nine days upon the ground neither eating nor drinking but watching intently the sun. Her head she turned gradually to follow him as he travelled from east to west. At last her limbs became rooted to the ground and her face became a sunflower.
Even to-day the illusion is prevalent that the sunflower, the emblem of constancy, turns its face to follow the course of the sun. Moore alludes to it in "The heart that has truly loved never forgets But as truly loves on to the close As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets The same look that she turned when he rose."
In ancient sculpture the sunflower has ever been a favourite decoration, and especially has it been looked upon as sacred in those countries that have worshipped the sun.