Kansas: Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, state flowers
Photo: Ernst Kucklich
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Kansas: Sunflower

Helianthus annuus
Fast-growing, happy-faced blooms with edible seeds, sunflowers supplied Native Americans with food and oil and later sustained settlers along the Santa Fe Trail. Their nodding roadside gold is a hallmark of Kansas summers, but their drama is for everyone. Plant the self-sowing annual from seed after the last spring frost in sunny, well-drained soil, and water moderately; stake tall growers in windy spots. Giant varieties include the 12-foot yellow heirloom 'Mammoth Russian' (shown) and the 15-foot golden 'Paul Bunyan,' while 'Velvet Queen' is a 4-foot dwarf variety with orange-red bicolored blooms.
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