How did sunflowers originate?

Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
Sunflowers are native to both North and South America, where indigenous people were the first to cultivate them. Sunflowers have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years by the Native Americans, who used all the parts of the plant for various purposes, such as oil sources and dye pigments. The Spanish explorers took the sunflower back to Europe, from which it extended its beauty to adjoining countries.

Today, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world. The world's leading commercial producers of sunflower seeds are the Russian Federation, Spain, Argentina, France, China, Peru, and the United States. In the United States, North Dakota, Minnesota, and California are the leading producers.

Considered to be the most "cheerful" flower in the world, the sunflower is a symbol of light, hope, and innocence. The U.S. state of Kansas adopted the sunflower as its state flower, while Russia considers the sunflower its national flower. However, some U.S. farmers inexplicably thought otherwise and considered the sunflower a weed; in fact, in 1972 the state of Iowa officially declared the sunflower a "noxious weed."
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