The state flower of Kansas is the sunflower, a wild flower that is native and widespread throughout the state. Although it is often difficult to identify different species of sunflowers, there are approximately 11 different species of them in Kansas. Since the state is home to such an abundant variety and number of sunflowers, the adoption of the plant as the state flower of Kansas is not surprising. The pride in the sunflower is also evident elsewhere in official Kansas state symbols. As the state flower of Kansas, sunflower imagery is also on the state flag and the state quarter; in addition, Kansas even bears the nickname the Sunflower State.
The sunflower has a flower head that actually follows the sun and turns to face it throughout the day. Another characteristic of the sunflower is that its head is actually made up of anywhere between 1,000 and 2,000 individual flowers. In addition, the sunflower is also made up of two different types of flowers: disk flowers and ray flowers. Disk flowers are the tiny, usually hairy flowers that form the center of the sunflower, and ray flowers are the large, yellow petals along the border. Each disk and each ray are individual flowers, and the disk flowers become seeds while the ray flowers do not.
As the state flower of Kansas, the sunflower is considered by some a bright and welcome sight on the flat prairie landscape. Sunflower seeds can be snacks for humans and animals alike. Sunflower seeds are rich in protein, which makes them a good food source, and they are also rich with oil, which makes them a good source for producing top-quality oil.
The cultivation of sunflowers dates back thousands of years to the Native Americans. They domesticated wild common sunflowers because they saw the value of them as a source of food. At the time, the seeds of wild sunflowers were typically only about 5 millimeters (0.5 centimeters) in size. The Native Americans carefully chose the largest of the sunflower seeds to cultivate, and over the years, this led to the growth of the large sunflowers known today as the modern sunflower. The modern sunflower is able to contain an great quantity of seeds and, as such, produce an abundance of sunflower oil.