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The Sunflower has been thus named from the resemblance which its broad golden disk and surrounding rays bear to the sun. On this account it was used in its native country by the Peruvians, who worshipped that luminary—the virgins who officiated in the Temple of the Sun being crowned with Sunflowers of pure gold, wearing them also at their bosoms, and carrying them in their hands. These golden flowers, reflecting the rays of their deity, formed a scene of dazzling brilliancy. The first Spaniards who arrived in Peru were amazed at this profuse display of gold, but they were still more asto. nished when in May they beheld whole fields covered with these flowers, which they concluded at first sight to be composed of the same precious metal.
The Sunflower has been made the emblem of
ferred his affections to Leucothoe, the daughter of King Orchamos, the jealous Clytia communicated the affair to the father, who cruelly put his daughter to death. Helios was so indignant at the conduct of Clytia, that he could not forgive her, and wholly withdrew his affections. Overwhelmed with grief, she threw herself on the ground, and there lay for nine days and nights without taking any sustenance, and her eyes fixed on the sun, the type of her lover. At length, the gods, moved with compassion by her sorrow and contrition, transformed her into a Sunflower, which was believed constantly to turn its face towards the sun, as if to imbibe life and warmth from his rays.
In its native country, Peru and Mexico, the Sunflower is said to grow to the height of twenty feet or more, and to produce filowers about two feet in diameter. Gerard, the first English writer who notices this plant, which he calls “ The Flower of the Sunne, or the Marigolde of Peru," tells us that he had grown it in his garden at Holborn to the height of fourteen feet, and producing flowers that measured sixteen inches over.
It has been ascertained that a single Sunflower may produce upwards of two thousand seeds. These seeds when peeled have a taste similar to that of sweet almonds, and they are excellent food for fattening domestic poultry. In the United States of America, the Sunflower is cultivated on a large scale for the purpose of making from the seeds an oil that is good-tasted, and fit for salads and all the purposes for which olive-oil is used. Hence it is evident that the Sunflower might with as much justice have been made the emblem of true as of false riches.