The Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) which is so popular and

brilliant an ornament of cottage gardens throughout England in

summer and autumn, is an importation of long standing, and has

been called the Marigold of Peru.

Its general nature and appearance are so well known as scarcely to

need any description. The plant is of the Composite order,

indigenous to tropical America, but flourishing well in this cou

whilst bearing the name of Heli-anthus (Sunflower), and smelling

of turpentine when the disc of the flower is broken across.

The growing herb is highly useful for drying damp soils, because of

its remarkable power of absorbing water; for which reason several

acres of Sunflowers are now planted in the Thames Valley. Swampy

districts in Holland have been made habitable by an extensive

culture of the Sunflower, the malarial miasmata being absorbed and

nullified, whilst pure oxygen is emitted abundantly.

An old rhyme declares, for some unknown reason:--

The full Sunflower blew

And became a starre of Bartholomew.

The name Sunflower has been given as most persons think because

the flowers follow the sun by day turning always towards its shining

face. But Gerard says, about this alleged fact, he never could

observe it to happen, though he spared no pains to observe the

matter; he rather thought the flower to have got its title because

resembling the radiant beams of the sun. Likewise, [547] some have

called it Corona Solis, and Sol Indianus, the Indian Sunne-floure: by

others it is termed Chrysanthemum Peruvianum. In Peru this flower

was much reverenced because of its resemblance to the radiant sun,

which luminary was worshipped there. In their Temples of the Sun

the priestesses were crowned with Sunflowers, and wore them in

their bosoms, and carried them in their hands. The early Spanish

invaders found in these temples numerous representations of the

Sunflower wrought in pure virgin gold, the workmanship of which

was so exquisite that it far out-valued the precious metal whereof

they were made. Some country folk call it Lady eleven o'clock.

If the buds of the Sunflower before expanding be boiled, and eaten

with butter, vinegar and pepper, after the manner of serving the

Jerusalem Artichoke, they are exceeding pleasant meat, surpassing

the artichoke moreover in provoking the desiderium veneris. The

Chinese make their finest yellow dye from the Sunflower, which

they worship because resembling the sun.

All parts of the plant contain much carbonate of potash; and the

fruit, or seed, furnishes a fixed oil in abundance. The kernels of the

seeds contain helianthic acid, and the pith of the plant will yield

nine per cent. of carbonate of potash. The oil of the Sunflower may

be used as olive oil, and the cake after expressing away this oil

makes a good food for cattle. A medicinal tincture (H.) is prepared

from the seed with rectified spirit of wine; also from the fresh juice

with diluted spirit. Each of these serves admirably against

intermittent fever and ague, instead of quinine. The Sunflower is

adored by the Chinese as the most useful of all vegetables. From its

seeds the best oil is [548] extracted, and an excellent soap is made.

This oil burns longer than any other vegetable oil, and Sunflower

cake is more fattening to cattle than linseed cake.

The flowers furnish capital food for bees, and the leaves are of use

for blending with tobacco. The stalk yields a fine fibre employed in

weaving Chinese silk, and Evelyn tells of The large Sunflower, ere

it comes to expand and show its golden face, being dressed as an

artichoke, and eaten as a dainty.

The plant is closely allied in its species to the Globe Artichoke, and

the Jerusalom Artichoke (girasole), so named from turning vers

le soleil, or au soleil, this being corrupted to Jerusalem, and

its soup by further perversion to Palestine soup. The original

Moorish name was Archichocke, or Earththorn.

The Globe Artichoke (Cinara maxima anglicana) of our kitchen

gardens, when boiled and brought to table, has a middle pulp which

is eaten as well as the soft delicate pulp at the base of each prickly

floret. This middle pulp, says Gerard, when boiled with the broth

of fat flesh, and with pepper added, makes a dainty dish being

pleasant to the taste, and accounted good to procure bodily desire.

(It stayeth the involuntary course of the natural seed). Evelyn tells

us: This noble thistle brought from Italy was at first so rare in

England that they were commonly sold for crowns apiece. Pliny

says: Carthage spent three thousand pounds sterling a year in

them. The plant is named Cinara, from cinis, ashes, because

land should be manured with these. It contains phosphoric acid, and

is, therefore, stimulating.

The leaves of the Globe Artichoke afford somewhat freely on

expression a juice which is bitter, and acts as [549] a brisk diuretic

in many dropsies. Such a constituent in the plant was known to the

Arabians for curdling milk.

The Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) is of the

Sunflower genus, having been brought at first from Brazil, and

being now commonly cultivated in England for its edible tubers.

These are red outside, and white within; they contain sugar, and

albumen, with all aromatic volatile principle, and water. The tuber is

the Topinambour, and Pois de terre of the French; having been

brought to Europe in 1617. It furnishes more sugar and less starch

than the Potato.

In 1620 the Jerusalem Artichoke was quite common as a vegetable

in London: though, says Parkinson, when first introduced, it was a

dainty for a queen. Formerly, it was baked in pies with beef

marrow, dates, ginger, raisins, and sack. The juice pressed out

before the plant blossoms was used by the ancients for restoring the

hair of the head, even when the person was quite bald.

The Sunflower has been from time immemorial a popular remedy

for malarial fevers in Russia, Turkey, and Persia, being employed as

a tincture made by steeping the stems and leaves in brandy. It is

considered even preferable to quinine, sometimes succeeding when

this has failed, and being free from any of the inconveniences which

often arise from giving large doses of the drug: whilst the pleasant

taste of the plant is of no small advantage in the case of children.

Cases in which both quinine and arsenic proved useless have been

completely cured by the tincture of Sunflower in a week or ten days.

Golden Sunflowers are introduced at Rheims into the stained glass

of an Apse window in the church of St. Remi, with the Virgin and

St. John on either side of [550] the Cross, the head of each being

encircled with an aureole having a Sunflower inserted in its outer

circle. The flowers are turned towards the Saviour on the Cross as

towards their true Sun.