Pulchritude: Sunflower

Sunflowers are one of the most iconic flowers in the Americas.  It is immediately recognizable for its vast height and bright yellow petals. Aside from being used in gardens, sunflower seeds are often roasted and salted to be sold as a snack, which also yield oil for culinary and cosmetic purposes when pressed.  Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) typically grows about 3 meters in height, though some sunflowers have grown as tall as 8.23 meters (27 feet).  The sunflower is a flower head comprised of numerous 5 petaled flowers.  Disk flowers in the center of the sunflower are arranged in spirals, which later mature into sunflower seeds.  Sunflowers can be used in phytoremediation of soils contaminated with toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, and uranium.  Helianthus annuus was frequently used by Native Americans, and is believed to have been domesticated in Mexico around 2600 BC.  Many of these groups used the sunflower to depict solar deities due to its resemblance to the sun, which is how it was named.

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