THE SUNFLOWER

APPEARANCE - TERRITORY - USAGES - REPRODUCTION

Sunflowers are large flowers containing vast quantities of seeds, mounted on wide upward growing stalks that are a wonder of plant architecture. The Sunflower is a name that actually comprises three very similar annual plants that grow in various situtations in Caelereth. To different races they are a sign of positivity: happiness, cheer, even luck, health and hope represent the sun to certain elven tribes, and may also be given in bouquets as a symbol of long life, health and happiness. All types are easy to cultivate as the seeds are not very difficult to collect, and as long as they are grown in a sunny spot, they grow magnificently.

The Sunflower

View picture in full size Image description. The common Sunflower, often seen as sign of happiness, cheer, luck, health and hope.  Picture drawn by Faugar.

Appearance. In general Sunflowers have blossoms composed of yellow, orange or red rays of petals fanning around disks with smaller yellow, brown, blue or purple petals. The wild Sunflower grows to be about 2 peds tall, while certain cultivated varieties will grow to reach 6 peds if properly supported. The solitary blossom is supported by a green stem that in some cases is only barred from being a trunk by the fact that it has no woody tendancy.

The blossom has disk florets in the centre and ray florets on the margins. The disk florets have a brown or even purple color. The marginal florets start out small and fat but they thin out as they extend. The diameter of a Sunflower head is 0.2 peds across wild, though the cultivated varieties have far larger diameters, as the larger flower has been selected for. The very centre of the flower, late in the season will contain characteristic Sunflower seeds that are rather like a cat's eye in shape. They are usually off-white, cream or brown in colour with veins of purple blue, black or brown running through them.

The flowers get their collective name from both their huge fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun, especially in elven paintings. The elves call them Séean'efér (
Séean'efér, literally "Globes of Fire"), but to both elves, halflings and men, these huge cheerful plants have nothing but positive connotations. They also get their name from their sun loving habit. Sunflowers thrive in full sun, and will not tolerate shade. The stem and leaves grow toward the sun, and the flower is always tilted toward it. So in open, exposed areas the plant, very very slowly follows the sun as it moves from east to west, they thus can be used by outdoors types to judge not only the season, but the time of day, like a very crude clock.

Sunflower leaves are as broad as a man hand span at the base, tappering to an elegant point. They are dark green and rather thin. They grow on opposite pairs on the lower stem and alternate pairs on the upper stem.

All the types of Sunflowers are very similar in appearance and keep the same breeding seasons. The common Sunflower is that archetypal Sunflower bloom, and the most cultivated. Petals are either yellow or orange in colour, with an inner halo of small petals often in a variety of colours. The Southern Sunflower looks very similar, but its petals are always bright red in colour and its foilage has a more waxy feel to them. This is a layer of thickened cuticle which prevents water evapourating from the leaf's surface. As a result it is far more drought resistant. The last variety is sometimes called the "Little Fire" and is technically the most northerly of the species. It has a far smaller flower disc than its cousins, and large petals are yellow or orange with white verigation. It has smaller, thinner leaves and a slightly smaller growing habit, reaching no more that 1.6 peds in height.
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The Southern Sunflower

View picture in full size Image description. A Southern Sunflower, growing primarily at the continent of Aerulllin. Picture drawn by Erelen.

Territory. Sunflowers are grown widely but are thought to be native to Southern Sarvonia. All varieties require open ground, but can be grown in gardens if given enough care. The common Sunflower flourishes on the Elverground, but also does well on other open areas of Sanguia and Manthria. Further north the climate becomes more and more difficult from this common species, though if looked after by a gardener or farmer, the common type can be grown quite comfortably in Voldar as well. It will also outcompete its more hear tolerant cousin in wetter climates, and so can be found in clearings on the continent of Nybelmar, though they are somewhat scarce. The Little Fire does well on the Higher Ground of Caelereth, and is common in Rimmerins Ring, and can be found in certain areas of the Warnaka Mountains and the Tandala, and the more southerly reaches of Northern Sarvonia. The Southern Sunflower lives in desert oases and dry areas of Aeruillin. Return to the top

Usages. Aprat from being beautiful garden plants, and often grown to sell as cut flowers, the seeds are used to make a fine oil. The cruder oil of the "Little Fire" is used for making soap and candles, while the common and Southern varieties are used for cooking and dressing vegetables. Oil cakes made from sunflower oil are use to feed cattle.

The seeds themselves, from all three plants, are also very tasty. They are very good for both the human and hobbit digestive systems, and while there are few records on other races, it is known that the Aellenrhim and the Ahrhrim elves find them undigestable, while the Quaelhoirhim, Ylfferhim, Tethinrhim and Jhehellrhim can eat them quite happily, though it is far from the delicacy that they are considered by certain Northern Sarvonian tribes. The hobbits of the Elverground make use of the bountiful crop of seeds from wild flowers to make a distinctive bread baked in clay ovens. Similarly in Vezash and Elsreth, sunflower seeds are ground up and mixed with honey and sugar syrups to make a sort of sweet cracker that is then topped with other small grains.

Dwarves enjoy sunseeds (as they call them) as a snack that goes very well with a horn of ale or a bottle of beer: The seeds are broken from their greyish cases by being run through a small grinder of dwarven design, then soaked in a very salty, flavourful liquid (human cooks who have had the chance to taste it say it is probably mushroom essence - the juice that seeps from salted fungi reduced by boiling to a concentrate) for a full day. Finally the soaked sunseeds are dropped into a lidded pan with a very long handle and roasted over a hot forgeflame until dry and crunchy.

These little goodies are positively addictive, and certainly aid in the consumption of more alcohol.... Santharian barkeeps have not yet been able to develop a reliable trade route for importing Thergerim Sunseeds, but it won't be far in the future.
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Reproduction. The flowering season for all species begins late in the month of Burning Heavens, though within a population this will not be synchronised by which time the flower has reached nearly full height. The plant first produces pollen. The anthers then cease to produce pollen and the plant becomes female, ready to receive pollen from another plant and prevent self-fertilisation. The seeds are formed in the middle of the blossom anytime from early maáh'valannía through to the beggining of chúh'querín. Unlike most plants blossom remains, and does not wilt once fertilised. This is because seed dispersal relies on seed eating birds, like the haloen and animals, and the large bright petals help to attract them. Farmers sometimes remove petals at this point to prevent their crop being eaten!
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