Iowa wildflower Wednesday: Sunflowers

As November 8, 2016 approached, I prepared to profile prairie blazing star, which seemed like a fitting way to celebrate the first woman to be elected president.

This year, I was too superstitious to plan for the first post-election Iowa wildflower Wednesday. But now that Joe Biden’s path to 270 electoral votes seems clear, I want to feature one sunflower (plant from the Helianthus genus) that is native to the state in question for every batch of electoral votes Biden flipped.

Biden’s first confirmed gain in Trump territory on Tuesday night was Nebraska’s second Congressional district. That pickup was crucial, because it opened up a path to win the presidency without Pennsylvania or Maine’s second Congressional district. Holding all Clinton states (including Nevada) and winning NE-02 plus Arizona, Wisconsin, and Michigan would give Biden exactly 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to become president.

I chose a smaller sunflower for NE-02, because it’s worth just one electoral vote. This plant is some kind of cultivar, possibly a “firecracker” dwarf sunflower variety.

Next, two news organizations declared Biden the winner of Arizona’s eleven electoral votes. Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is native to most of North America, including parts of Arizona.

In the early hours of November 4, Biden overtook Trump in the Wisconsin vote count, and that state finished tallying ballots on Wednesday afternoon. For Wisconsin, I chose Helianthus pauciflorus, known as stiff sunflower or prairie sunflower.

Later on November 4, news organizations called Michigan for Biden. Here are some sawtooth sunflowers (Helianthus grosseserratus).

Although Pennsylvania hasn’t been called for Biden yet, it seems headed in that direction. Enjoy some Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani).

Georgia also isn’t guaranteed to go for Biden at this writing, but the ballots not yet counted come from heavily Democratic areas. I feel hopeful enough to close out this post with Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

Top image: Sawtooth sunflowers growing next to a sidewalk at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City.

Tags: Wildflowers
  • So nice to see an array of bright sunflower photos on a cloudy day!

    One of the nicest prairie sights in Iowa is seeing bright yellow goldfinches visiting bright yellow sunflowers. And it’s not necessary to be in a big prairie. Native prairie sunflowers are generally happy to grow in sunny areas in yards.

    Native wild sunflowers are messier than many domestic garden plants. But when sunflowers are in bloom and are visited by goldfinches that are busily swinging on the stems and talking to each other, it suddenly becomes very clear that messiness can be beautiful.

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