National flower of Austin

sunflow.jpgNo longer treated as weeds, common wild sunflowers are permitted by more and more people to bloom in some corner of the yard. They need no particular attention, of course, springing up and thriving as they do beside hot pavements and on any broken soil. It’s true that they’re coarse and that the hairy leaves and stems are irritating to some. The yellow flowers on these plants taller than people provide nectar to many butterflies. Even people who don’t molest them while they’re blossoming often uproot them when the seedheads begin to form. This deprives many birds of a favorite food. Right now, we’re predominantly seeing whitewing doves and entire families of cardinals. In this photograph, along with the yellow sunflowers it’s possible to discern zinnias, ruellias (wild or Mexican petunias, low and blue-violet), yellow and orange cosmos, and tithonia (Mexican sunflowers, red-orange). The fine, feathery leaves belong to fennel, also attractive to birds and butterflies. Helianthus annuus requires nothing but to be left alone. If the browning leaves and departing flowers seem to be an eyesore, it’s possible, once the seedheads form, to bend the stems down to lie inconspicuously horizontal on the ground, so that the seeds remain available to nourish birds and to grow flowers in the year to come.

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