Any of 50 species of annual herbaceous plants in the genus Helianthus (family Asteraceae), native mostly to North and South America. The common sunflower (H. annuus) has a rough, hairy stem 3–15 ft (1–4.5 m) high; broad, coarsely toothed, rough leaves 3–12 in. (7.5–30 cm) long; and large (3–6 in., or 7.5–15 cm, in diameter), flat, platelike compound flowers. Disk flowers swirl in a tight brown, yellow, or purple spiral; ray flowers are yellow. The leaves are used as fodder, the flowers yield a yellow dye, and the seeds contain oil and are used for food. The oil is used for cooking, as an ingredient of soaps and paints, and as a lubricant. Only a few species are cultivated, some for their spectacular size.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)—John H. Gerard
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