IX: Sunflower

How sunflowers became a symbol of peace in Ukraine.

IX: Sunflower
Yellow sunflowers against a blue sky. Photo by N Suma / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is nonidi, the 19th of Vendémiaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate le tournesol, a flower that always faces the light.

Sunflowers don't physically "turn" their heads to the sun. Instead, they grow their flower on the eastern side by feeling morning heat, then follow an internal circadian rhythm to grow one side of the stalk at a time, creating a twisting growth pattern that mirrors the sun's movement quite effectively. When they reach maximal height, the growth stops and the flowers face east permanently for pollination and seed growth.

Yesterday, we looked into Russia's national flower, so it's a startling coincidence that the French revolutionaries picked Ukraine's national flower for today. Lest you think this was a balanced attempt at Eastern European diplomacy, at the time the calendar was made, sunflowers were just taking root in Ukraine.

How did this flower from faraway lands become their national symbol?