Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)—John H. Gerard

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.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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