The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 September 2005

Sunflower watch

Using our very own mascot, Fred explains how we got so many of these blooms staring us in the face:

[W]hat big fat seeds it has, wrapped in a thick, dry husk. What a loser in the game of seed dispersal and reproductive success.

I can pretty well say the tender seed inside the woody exocarp doesn't survive the goldfinch. Its beak, for a bird its size, is strong and sharp-pointed. They hang upsidedown from the nodding heads and deftly pluck the disk flower's fruit — a single seed — and crack it with their beak, select the oily, high-fat nut with their tongue, and it's bird 1, plant 0. But in the process of possessing that one tasty morsel, the bird has dislodged a dozen more.

The fallen seed waits on the garden soil for a vole, mouse or squirrel. The rodent will carry it off and bury it, forgetting where it planted some, thus planting a wild garden of sunflowers across the road, beside the barn and beyond the compost pile. The odds of survival probably aren't great with this approach to plant propagation, but then, look how many seeds a single flower produces to improve its odds of success! Depending on how close they grow, a single head will produce from 500 to over 800 seeds.

Sunflowers are produced commercially, for the oil or for the seeds, but I always think of them as old friends by the side of the road, waving as I go by.

Posted at 10:10 AM to Entirely Too Cool


I feed the Black Oil variety exclusively to my bird visitors.

Curiously a few years ago I planted sunflower seeds in my yard but would you believe that not a single one came up! I couldn't.

Posted by: ms7168 at 10:29 AM on 12 September 2005