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Helianthus annuus

(Annual Sunflower)


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Large herb from North America grown for its bright flowers and for its edible seeds which also yield oil for cooking.

Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Danish:


Common Names in Dutch:


Common Names in English:

Annual Sunflower, Common Sunflower, Hopi Sunflower (Usa), Sunflower, Wild Sunflower

Common Names in Estonian:

Harilik Päevalill, Päevalill

Common Names in Finnish:

Auringon Ruusu, Auringonkukka, Isoauringonkukka

Common Names in French:

Grand Soleil, Soleil, Tournesol

Common Names in German:

Echte Sonnenblume, Sonnenblume

Common Names in Hungarian:


Common Names in Italian:

Corona Del Sole, Girasole

Common Names in Latin:

Oleum Helianthi Annui

Common Names in Norwegian:

Solsikke, Solvendel

Common Names in Polish:

Slonecznik Roczny, Slonecznik Zwyczajny

Common Names in Portuguese:


Common Names in Romanian:

Floarea Soarelui, Ierboaie, Ochiul Soarelui, Patonea, Răsărită, Ruji, Sorină

Common Names in Russian:

Podsolnečnik Odnoletnij, подсолнечник однолетний

Common Names in Slovenian:

Navadna Sonènica

Common Names in Spanish:

Girasol, Mirasol

Common Names in Swedish:


Common Names in Turkish:

Ay çiç, Gün çiç, Güne Bakan


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Family Compositae

The largest family of flowering plants , the Compositae (Asteraceae), comprising about 1,100 genera and more than 20,000 species and characterized by many small flowers arranged in a head looking like a single flower and subtended by an involucre of bracts. A head may consist of both ray flowers and disk flowers, as in the sunflower, of disk flowers only, as in the burdock, or of ray flowers only, as in the dandelion.

Tribe Heliantheae

The Heliantheae are a tribe of closely related genera of the sunflower family that can be readily recognized due to the association of a receptacular bract or chaff scale with each disk floret in the head . The heads usually include bisexual , actinomorphic disk florets with tubular corollas that have 4 or 5 distal lobes and also peripheral zygomorphic female or sometimes sterile florets with strap-shaped corollas that have 3 or fewer distal teeth. However, the ray flowers are sometimes absent and the heads are then discoid , containing only bisexual florets with tubular corollas. The pappus is absent or more commonly ranges from scales to stiff bristles . -- Gerald Carr.

Genus Helianthus

Annuals or perennials , (5) 20300(500) cm. Stems erect or ascending to decumbent or pro-cumbent, usually branched distally. Leaves basal and/or cauline; opposite, or opposite (proximal ) and alternate, or alternate; petiolate or sessile; blades usually 3-nerved (1-nerved in H. eggertii, H. smithii, and H. maximiliani), mostly deltate, lance-linear , lanceolate, lance-ovate, linear , or ovate , bases cordate to narrowly cuneate, margins usually entire or serrate, rarely lobed , faces glabrous or hairy , often gland-dotted. Heads usually radiate (sometimes discoid in H. radula), borne singly or in ± corymbiform , paniculiform , or spiciform arrays. Involucres usually ± hemispheric , sometimes campanulate or cylindric , 540+(200+ in cultivars) mm diam. Phyllaries persistent , 1140(100+ in cultivars) in 23+ series (subequal to unequal). Receptacles flat to slightly convex (conic in H. porteri), paleate (paleae ± conduplicate , usually rectangular-oblong, usually ± 3-toothed, sometimes entire, apices sometimes reddish or purplish). Ray florets usually 530+(100+ in cultivars), rarely 0, neuter ; corollas usually yellow. Disc florets (15) 30150+(1000+ in cultivars), bisexual , fertile ; corollas yellow or reddish (at least distally), tubes shorter than campanulate throats, lobes 5, triangular (style branches slender, appendages ± attenuate). Cypselae (usually purplish black, sometimes mottled ) ± obpyramidal , ± compressed (glabrous, glabrate , or ± hairy) ; pappi 0 (H. porteri), or readily falling, of 2(3) usually lanceolate, aristate , or erose scales (at the 2 principal angles , 15 mm) plus 08 usually shorter scales (0.22 mm). x = 17.

Species 52, including 1 hybrid: North America, Mexico; introduced in the Old World.

The identification of sunflower species has long been problematic. C. B . Heiser et al. (1969) felt that the greatest contribution of their sustained efforts to understand sunflower taxonomy was not providing an easy way to identify sunflowers but rather an explanation for why they are so difficult. Taxonomic difficulties are based on a combination of factors , notably developmental and ecologic plasticity, the frequency of interspecific hybridization, and the presence of polyploidy. L. H. Rieseberg (1991) and Rieseberg et al. (1988, 1990) have subsequently documented the presence of species of homoploid hybrid origin to add to the complexity. The keys in this treatment have been modified somewhat with observations of features that require microscopic observation, such as the distribution of glands (sometimes referred to as "resin dots") and the color of anther appendages; they still are based heavily on those of Heiser et al. There will still be specimens, of hybrid origin or growing in unusual conditions or incompletely collected, that defy certain placement into a single species. The taxonomic rank of certain taxa is also problematic, and for the most part the treatment of Heiser et al. has been followed, with relatively few exceptions. With the exception of Helianthus ×laetiflorus, which is widespread and commonly encountered away from either parental species, hybrids are not treated as separate entities. Helianthus verticillatus has been verified as a distinct entity , unlikely to be simply a hybrid. Whether H. praetermissus E. Watson, which continues to be known only from a single fragmentary specimen, represents a distinct species or an anomalous collection is still uncertain; it has not been included here.[1]

Physical Description

Species Helianthus annuus

Annuals , 100-300 cm. Stems erect , usually hispid . Leaves mostly cauline; mostly alternate; petioles 2-20 cm; blades lance-ovate to ovate , 10-40 × 5-40 cm, bases cuneate to subcordate or cordate, margins serrate, abaxial faces usually ± hispid, sometimes gland-dotted . Heads 1-9. Peduncles 2-20 cm. Involucres hemispheric or broader, 15-40(-200+) mm diam. Phyllaries 20-30(-100+), ovate to lance-ovate, 13-25 × (3-) 5-8 mm, (margins usually ciliate ) apices abruptly narrowed, long-acuminate, abaxial faces usually hirsute to hispid, rarely glabrate or glabrous , usually gland-dotted. Paleae 9-11 mm, 3-toothed (middle teeth long-acuminate, glabrous or hispid). Ray florets (13-) 17-30(-100+) ; laminae 25-50 mm. Disc florets 150+(-1000+) ; corollas 5-8 mm (throats ± bulbous at bases), lobes usually reddish, sometimes yellow ; anthers brownish to black, appendages yellow or dark (style branches yellow) . Cypselae (3-) 4-5(-15) mm, glabrate ; pappi of 2 lanceolate scales 2-3.5 mm plus 0-4 obtuse scales 0.5-1 mm. 2n = 34.

Despite its considerable variability, attempts have failed to produce a widely adopted infraspecific system of classification. Forms with red-colored ray laminae, known from cultivation and occasionally seen escaped, trace their ancestry to a single original mutant plant. It hybridizes with many of the other annual species .

Habit: Forb/herb

Flowers: Bloom Period: May, June, July, August, September, October. • Flower Color: yellow


Size: 4-6' tall.


Open areas; 0-3000 m

Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 3,392 meters (0 to 11,129 feet).[2]


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Duration: Annual


Culture: Space 9-12" apart.

Soil: Minimum pH: 6.1 • Maximum pH: 8.5

Sunlight: Sun Exposure: Full Sun .

Temperature: Cold Hardiness: Not Applicable (map)


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H. annuus lenticularis (Douglas Ex Lindley) Cockerell • H. annuus texanus Heiser • H. annuus var. lenticularis (Douglas Ex Lindley) Steyermark • H. annuus var. macrocarpus (De Candolle) Cockerell • H. aridus Rydberg • H. jaegeri Heiser • H. lenticularis Douglas Ex Lindley • H. macrocarpus de Candolle • Helianthus annuus jaegeri (Heiser) Heiser • Helianthus annuus lenticularis (Dougl. Ex Lindl.) Cockerell • Helianthus annuus texanus Heiser • Helianthus annuus var. lenticularis (Dougl. Ex Lindl.) Steyermark • Helianthus annuus var. macrocarpus (Dc.) Cockerell • Helianthus annuus var. texanus (Heiser) Shinners • Helianthus aridus Rydb. • Helianthus lenticularis Dougl. Ex Lindl.

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Helianthus

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 224 species, subspecies, varieties, forms, and cultivars in this genus. Here are just 100 of them:

H. agrestis (Southeastern Sunflower) · H. alexidis (Alex Sunflower) · H. ambiguus (Ambiguous Sunflower) · H. angustifolius (Narrow-Leaf Sunflower) · H. angustifolius var. First Light (Narrow-Leaf Sunflower) · H. angustifolius 'Gold Lace' (Narrow-Leaved Sunflower) · H. angustifolius 'Mellow Yellow' (Narrow-Leaved Sunflower) · H. annus 'Honey Bear' (Sunflower) · H. annuus (Annual Sunflower) · H. annuus annuus (Annual Sunflower) · H. annuus lenticularis (Wild Sunflower) · H. annuus L. 'Floristan' (Sunflower) · H. annuus var. pallescens (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Autumn Beauty' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'B0524lm' (Sunflower 'b0524lm') · H. annuus 'Big Smile' (Big Smile Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Bismarkianus' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Bt0623' (Sunflower 'bt0623') · H. annuus 'Bt0624' (Sunflower 'bt0624') · H. annuus 'Bt530' (Sunflower 'bt530') · H. annuus 'Cappuccino' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Chianti' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Claret' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Cyclops' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Double Dandy' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Double Quick Orange' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Early Russian' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Earthwalker' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Ebony & Gold' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Evening Sun' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'F0143lm' (Sunflower 'f0143lm') · H. annuus 'Firecracker' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Florenza' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Fr83313' (Sunflower 'fr83313') · H. annuus 'Fr83555' (Sunflower 'fr83555') · H. annuus 'Full Sun Improved' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Gelber Diskus' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Giant Sungold' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Goldburst' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Henry Wilde' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Holiday' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Ib770dmr' (Sunflower 'ib770dmr') · H. annuus 'Ib920' (Sunflower 'ib920') · H. annuus 'Ikarus' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Incredible' (Dwarf Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Infrared Mix' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Ir127dmr' (Sunflower 'ir127dmr') · H. annuus 'Ir79dmr' (Sunflower 'ir79dmr') · H. annuus 'Italian White' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Jade' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Jerusalem Gold' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Kong' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Lemon Sorbet' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Lg114olb' (Sunflower 'lg114olb') · H. annuus 'Lg1234olb' (Sunflower 'lg1234olb') · H. annuus 'Lgrol24i' (Sunflower 'lgrol64i') · H. annuus 'Lyng's California Greystripe' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Magic Roundabout' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Mammoth' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Mammoth Grey Stripe' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Maya' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Moonbright' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Moonshadow' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Moonwalker' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Moulin Rouge' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Music Box' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'N0626lg' (Sunflower 'n0626lg') · H. annuus 'Orange Sun' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Pacino' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Pastiche' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Pr64g46' (Sunflower 'pr64g46') · H. annuus 'Pr64h34' (Sunflower 'pr64h34') · H. annuus 'Pro Cut Bicolor' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Pro Cut Lemon' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Pro Cut Orange' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Pro Cut Peach' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Razzmatazz' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Red Sun' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Ring of Fire' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Rt0567' (Sunflower 'rt0657') · H. annuus 'Rt0656' (Sunflower 'rt0656') · H. annuus 'Ruby Eclipse' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Shine' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Skyscraper' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sonja' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Soraya' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sparky' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Starburst Aura' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Starburst Lemon Aura' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Starburst Panache' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Stella Gold' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Strawberry Blonde' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sunbeam' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sunbright' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sunbright Supreme' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sundance Kid' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sundown' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sunny' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sunrich Gold' (Sunflower) · H. annuus 'Sunrich Lemon' (Sunflower)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal November 11, 2007:



  1. Edward E. Schilling "Helianthus". in Flora of North America Vol. 21 Page 51, 136, 141, 148, 149, 157, 170. Oxford University Press. Online at [back]
  2. Mean = 210.880 meters (691.864 feet), Standard Deviation = 319.480 based on 2,849 observations. Altitude information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-05-07