________________________________________Contemporary sunflowers trace their ancestry to plants found at archeological sites dating from 3,000 BC.While they grew abundantly on the Great Plains, sunflowers were first purposely cultivated by Native Americans in the Southwest or Mississippi River valley area as a source of medicine, fiber, seeds, and oil.
Where sunflower seeds are regularly used as bird feed, toxins from the accumulated seed hulls eventually kill the grass below.
Harmless to animals or people, the toxins eventually biodegrade in the soil.
Once sunflowers get started, they can tolerate drought as befits plants whose ancestors grew happily in dry prairie regions.
They are so easy to grow that they often plant themselves, springing up unbidden beneath a bird feeder.
However, it was in Russia that the sunflower became a major agricultural crop.
They provided a source of oil that could be eaten without breaking church dietary laws. began sustained commercial production of oil seed cultivars to produce vegetable oil.
As seed heads mature and flowers droop, cover each one with white polyspun garden fleece.
It will let light and air in and keep critters out.
Early in the 20th Century, Russian growers spearheaded the breeding and selection for disease resistance and high oil content. Long beloved as part of the rural landscape, sunflowers have been embraced by gardeners as an ornamental plant relatively recently.