Monday, August 4, 2014

when sunflowers follow the sun

years ago I fell in love with heliotrope:  the word, the color (purple), the flower (sweet, delicate, and purple.)
over time, heliotrope faded into a fold of my memory bank and I hadn't thought about it until today when I began researching sunflowers.  no, there isn't a purple sunflower, but sunflowers do possess the attribute of being heliotropic, which sounds suspiciously like heliotrope but like many things in our intriguing english language, has nothing at all to do with being purple.

sunflowers have popped.  it's august, it's hot, and these cheery tall plants gently bend and wave along the sides of emigration canyon road as I bike past.  it's only been a few weeks since they burst forth,  and they've brightened my mornings as their little heads catch my light beams.

the first clump I noticed had blooms facing east, and I remembered that sunflowers follow the sun ~ facing east in the morning and west in the afternoon.  in the early morning dark they'd already turned their heads toward the sun that hadn't yet risen, and I thought, these flowers are just like me.

at night before I retire, I pull together the biking gear I'll need in the morning:  shorts, top, heart monitor and socks in the bathroom, cyclometer and lights on the bike, shoes, helmet and glasses by the door, water bottles on the counter next to a protein breakfast bar.  I prep before the sun comes up.

so too the sunflowers.  I thought.
until I noticed that some sunflowers, in the early morning dark, were still facing west.
and then some faced east.  random?  or was the story that sunflowers followed the sun just a myth?

to google I went, and while googling I bumped into a tweaked version of my old friend heliotrope.

heliotropism is a trait of moving toward the sun.  and sunflowers are heliotropic.  well, the actively growing parts of sunflower plants are heliotropic.  young leaves and buds still in need of photosynthesis are heliotropic;  once the leaves and flowers have matured, they no longer chase the sun because their needs have been met.
and this is how they do it:  during the day, the stem on the side away from the sun elongates, tilting immature flowers and leaves toward the sun.  as the sun moves, the stem adjusts, which allows the flowers to face first east and then west.  in the dark, the process continues, preparing the plant by pulling it back into position for the next morning's light.

mature flowers no longer need to follow the sun, and will face any direction, often hanging their heads from the weight of seeds.

I guess I'm like the young, immature sunflowers, preparing ahead of time for what's to come.  stretching one part of myself to help another, keeping a vision of something bright always in view.  knowing what I need, and availing myself of that:  bikes rides, great conversation, a few baked goods,  fabulous books, strong coffee, hot showers, plenty water, productivity, a goal or two.
friends, love, hugs, a good chamois.  google.

and bike rides in the dark so I can learn about things like heliotropism.

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