United States
Fact Checked

Why Is Kansas Called the Sunflower State?

Marjorie McAtee
Marjorie McAtee

It is believed that Kansas got its nickname "The Sunflower State" because the wild sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is common there. The state's legislature adopted this flower as the state's official flower symbol in 1903. Legend has it that statesman George Morehouse is responsible for the designation of the sunflower as the state's official flower symbol and, by extension, for the use of The Sunflower State as the state's nickname. According to this legend, Morehouse became aware of citizens' affinity for the flower when he observed many of them wearing the blooms at an out-of-state event, as a means of identifying themselves to one another. Though The Sunflower State is now considered Kansas's official state nickname, the state has had a number of other nicknames in the past, most of which reflect either the state's geographical location and attributes, or major events in its history.

The wild native sunflower, also known as the common sunflower, is one of the most common indigenous flowers in the state. This may be partially due to the fact that it is largely cultivated in residential areas and on farms. These flowers, however, can often be seen growing wild throughout the state, and they have been an important source of vegetable oil for residents of the region for thousands of years. Native Americans living in the region now known as Kansas are believed to have been the first to cultivate these flowers. It is believed that their efforts helped to create sunflowers that produce larger, more oily seeds.

A sunflower.
A sunflower.

People who live in Kansas are said to believe that the sunflower calls to mind the state's frontier history and its vast prairies. The sunflower's seeds are typically used to make sunflower oil, which is useful for a number of purposes. Sunflower oil can be used in cooking and baking, and some people use it as an alternative to fossil fuels. The seeds themselves are often consumed alone as a snack, baked into pastries, or sprinkled on green salads.

Sunflower seeds can be a crunchy addition to green salads.
Sunflower seeds can be a crunchy addition to green salads.

Though Kansas's official nickname is now The Sunflower State, other nicknames have predominated in the past, and may still be used by some today. Alternatives to "The Sunflower State" include "Garden of the West," "The Wheat State," "The Cyclone State," and "The Central State," due to Kansas's centralized location in the United States. Some older nicknames tend to refer to important periods in Kansas's history. "The Grasshopper State" for instance, makes reference to the plague of Rocky Mountain locusts that devastated the state's crops in 1874.

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Discussion Comments


@Chmander - That's a very good point. I'm sure that other states have several nicknames as well. Though people are constantly switching back and forth, the Sunflower state is the official name in Kansas in the sense that it's referred to as that on a daily basis, even if people use alternate names interchangeably.


Does anyone know if most states had a nickname that was important in the past?

Not only am I asking because names always tend to change, but even the article says that Kansas used to be referred to as the Garden of the West, along with several other names.


Does anyone else find it interesting that all states have their own nicknames? On top of that, what makes it unique is that most of the names don't even have similarities. For example, between the Cowboy State, the Pelican State, and even the Aloha state, each name is based on a distinctive characteristic that the state possesses. This article does a great job at emphasizing that.

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    • A sunflower.
      By: alfastudiofoto
      A sunflower.
    • Sunflower seeds can be a crunchy addition to green salads.
      By: Konstantin Yuganov
      Sunflower seeds can be a crunchy addition to green salads.
    • Wild sunflowers are commonly found in Kansas.
      By: Sunny studio
      Wild sunflowers are commonly found in Kansas.