After a natural disaster we expect help to arrive in the form of Relief Agencies and Government Aid, but we might be surprised to learn sunflowers often come to the rescue as well.
As sunny and cheerful as they are, sunflowers are about far more than just boosting spirits and looking pretty.
These big, bright, sunny plants use their hollow stems like supersized sipping-straws to suck toxins out of the soil. Because they grow so quickly and have a lot of biomass they can withstand absorption of toxins that would kill a lesser plant.
After the Chernobyl disaster “sunflower rafts” were released on lakes, allowing the sunflower roots to dangle into the water to remove radioactive waste.
Sunflowers are also frequently brought in after a flood.
Floodwaters pick up all sorts of nasty things, including sewage, household, medical and industrial waste. Carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, mercury and dangerous bacteria like e coli are often present in the soil once the waters recede.
Planting sunflowers is a natural and cost effective way to rid the soil of many of these toxins.
After the devastating flood of 2013 the residents of High River, Alberta all received packages of sunflower seeds in the mail to help remediate the soil.
Sunflowers were also used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
Once the sunflower has drawn the toxins out of the soil, it stores them at a cellular level that safely prevents the chemicals from returning to the ground.
Composted sunflowers will not recontaminate the earth, but don’t feast on the sunflower seeds from plants grown in compromised soil or feed them to birds or other animals.
There is already so much to love about sunflowers. One can’t help but smile when they see a patch of bright yellow sunflowers growing in a garden. The seeds they produce are both nutritious and delicious. Sunflowers also have the amazing ability to track the sun, turning their blossoms from east to west and then pivoting back to the east in the evening to patiently wait for the sun to rise again. You can read more about that phenomena in this post.
Sunflowers are the very definition of hope in a plant. We can all use a little hope.
Fortunately, you don’t need to wait for a disaster to plant these amazing flowers in your garden.