Updated: Nov 22, 2020
This worldwide pandemic has brought upon us an 'Isolation Vacation' in which many of us are finding ourselves with much more time to ourselves. A lot of people in inconvenient, if not dangerous, financial and social situations. It's really important we look to the future with hope in our hearts knowing we will get through this together. For this reason, Beargrass Thunder chose the sunflower as the symbol to represent our hopes and goals during these uncertain times.
Sunflowers were integral to ancient culture
Sunflowers have been engrained in human culture for thousands of years. Native Americans played a crucial role in it's domestication dating back to the 1500's, with some sources claiming that sunflowers became a domesticated crop even before corn! The seeds were gradually cultivated, increasing the seed size up to 1000% over time. The native people used every single part of the plant for many different purposes.
Seeds were not only used as a staple ingredient in many different meals, but also a dependable snack for regaining energy while travel or during battle. They could be eaten raw, cooked, and toasted, and even ground into flour to make cakes and breads.
Besides food, Native Americans used sunflowers for medicine, ritual, decoration, and even as an aphrodisiac! Yellow pigments were extracted from sunflower pedals and used for dying textiles, body painting, and illustrating patterns on baskets and pottery. The plant was used to cauterize burns, heal wounds, and even served as a snake bite antidote!
Because of it's widespread use and ease of cultivation, sunflowers became an important part of many Native American spirituality, legend, and folklore. The Hopis tribe praised the goddess Kuwanlelenta, who was the guardian of the sunflower. Sunflowers even served an important part of the Iroquois' creation myth! One legend in particular, called 'Coyote's Salmon' is a story from the Sanpoil people in which Coyote teaches old man how to trap and prepare salmon. One of the most important steps is placing the salmon on top of sunflower stems and leaves during preparation.
The Purification Plant
Skipping ahead to modern times, it has been found that sunflowers can absorb and store chemicals deposited in the soil! People all over the world are using sunflowers to purify the ground.
One town called High River in southern Alberta, Canada is using a technique called phytoremediation in an effort to heal damage to the soil caused by massive flooding. In a community-wide effort, packets of sunflower seeds were delivered to every single resident living in town. The goal was to use the sunflowers to suck up all the toxic waste from the soil into the plant, which would then be cut down and thrown away after the job was done, according to a University of Calgary botanist.
It's a great option that has many benefits such as being extremely low-cost, supporting pollinating insects & birds, bringing the community together to improve their home, as well as just looking beautiful in general.
Scientists have even used sunflowers to clean up radioactive contaminants from the soil around the Chernobyl power plant meltdown in the mid-1990s. There are current projects in Fukushima using sunflowers to cleanse the water and soil of radioactive isotopes. Due to the timing of response, it's projected that the Fukushima projects will be even more successful than the Chernobyl ones!
Symbol of Hope
To be able to harness the power of nature to fix past mistakes is profound. What's stopping us from replicating something like this in our own backyard? My own yard's soil in Smoketown-Louisville is of horrible quality. It's filled with clay and is likely contaminated with lead and who knows what else?! If there was a community-wide movement and everyone had sunflowers growing in their yard, think of all the benefits that could be had!
The soil could be purified over time, allowing the potential of urban agriculture for future generations. Endangered species of pollinating insects and birds could have a habitat and contribute to the betterment of our ecosystem. The quality of air and water would be improved. It would bring neighborhoods together in solidarity for the betterment of our communities. Plus, it would just be awesome in general to be able to see all the different colors and variety of flowers.
Sunflowers are arguably some of the best types of plants you can have on your property. They're resilient and help heal the earth, which is why Beargrass Thunder chose the sunflower as a symbol to help us through these troubling times.
We urge you to plant some sunflowers for yourself, and help spread the word! Most people just think they are a pretty flower, but they are so much more! We gave sunflower starts to a bunch of our neighbors and are preparing to do it again! We have a lot of plans in store for the near future, so stay tuned! In the meantime, do what you can to help. Take action to improve your community, and let people know what they can do to help.
If you have any thoughts or ideas, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking the 'contact us' button on our website.
Sunflowers Origin and Usage by Native Americans - starherald.com
Sunflowers American Domestication History - thoughtco.com
Sunflower History - sunflowernsa.com
Coyote's Salman - firstpeople.us
Sunflowers used to clean up radiation - japantoday.com
From Prehistory to PResent: a Sunflower Story! - metrin.com
The Many Uses of Sunflowers - motherearthliving.com
Sunflowers - iastate.edu
Sunflower - arizona.edu
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