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ORRIN MORRIS: The sunflower turns its bloom to face the sun

Ever since Van Gogh, every artist feels he or she must paint a sunflower. I did, but had to learn a lot in the process. This creation of God is a challenge for an artist to accurately reproduce.COMMON SUNFLOWER

Helianthus annuusThe common sunflower is an annual whose blooms begin appearing in July and continue until frost. It is found in all lower 48 states and was used widely by American Indians. The seeds were ground for bread or pressed to extract oil for cooking. More recently, the oil has been used to make soap and natural oil for cooking.

Today, the commercial use of sunflowers, especially the giant sunflower, is so extensive that there is a National Sunflower Association located in Bismark, N.D., to serve growers and distributors.

The most significant characteristic of the common sunflower is that the bloom turns to face the sun. It twists to the east as the sun rises and follows it until it sets. That's why it is so named. Its name does not originate from that yellow ball with rays that young children draw with crayons in kindergarten.

This turning with the sun means you must work fast if you paint on sight. I don't, so I took photos and thus froze the shadows.

The sunflower is in the daisy or composite family. The bright golden petals are actually rays. The flowers are in the center and when pollinated form seeds. The greatest challenge for the artist is the symmetry of the mature bloom when the seeds form. Note the sketch and the interesting geometric pattern of the seeds.

Most sunflowers in our area like dry open places and thin woods. There are at least 15 varieties of sunflowers that have been identified throughout Georgia. In my books, I have covered the Jerusalem artichoke, the woodland and the giant sunflower.

The names of the other sunflowers in Georgia include swamp, cucumber-leaf, whiteleaf, sawtooth, hairy, cheerful, smooth, longleaf, ashy, few-leaf and stiff. Looks like there is a lot more looking around for me to do.

The doxology by Jude, the brother of James, aptly fits my wish for you, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy ... Amen" (Jude 1:24).

Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. A two-volume book of the nearly 280 wildflower columns is available for sale and can be ordered by calling 770-929-3697 or 404-824-9142 or e-mail odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.