Thinking Citizen Blog — Flowers VII: the Sunflower — Aztecs, Van Gogh, Simon Wiesenthal

Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day

Today’s Topic: Flowers VII: the Sunflower — Aztecs, Van Gogh, Simon Wiesenthal

Six weeks ago, the tulip. Five weeks ago, the crocus and the lily. Four weeks ago, the iris and the fleur-de-lis. Three weeks ago, the rose. Two weeks ago, the lotus (aka the “water lily”). Last week the plum blossom. The premise of this series is that environmental awareness begins with an appreciation for the beauty and fragility of the natural world. Sunflowers are bold. In your face. Like their namesake. When young they track the sun. At maturity they face east. First domesticated in Mexico in 2600 BC, they were brought to Europe in the 16th century. Their oil and seeds are edible. The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of the Ukraine. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate,elucidate.


1. Normally about 10 feet high, sunflowers have been known to grow to over 30 feet.

2. Young sunflowers track the sun, this pattern stops at maturity.

3. Thereafter they face east. “This eastward orientation allows rapid warming in the morning and, as a result, an increase in pollinator visits.”

NB: The flower head actually includes up to 2000 little flowers. In French the sunflower is called a “tournesol” (eg. turns toward the sun).

VAN GOGH — decorated Gauguin’s guest room in the Yellow House in Arles with paintings of sunflowers

1. “I’m painting with the gusto of a Marseillais eating bouillabaise (a fish stew), which won’t surprise you when it’s a question of painting large sunflowers.” (Vincent to brother Theo)

2. “In the hope of living in a studio of our own with Gauguin, I’d like to do a decoration for the studio. Nothing but large sunflowers”

3. “It’s a type of painting that changes its aspect a little, which grows in richness the more you look at it.”

NB: There are 11 Van Gogh paintings of sunflowers as “the primary subject” and many more in which they are featured. Four of the 11 were painted in Paris, seven in Arles.


1. A dying Nazi soldier guilty of participating in the Holocaust asks a Jewish survivor for forgiveness.

2. What would you do? What should you do?

3. “The title comes from Wiesenthal’s observation of a German military cemetery, where he saw a sunflower on each grave.”

NB: “The book’s second half is a symposium of answers from various people, including other Holocaust survivors, religious leaders and former Nazis. The book was originally published in German by Opera Mundi in Paris, France in 1969. The first English translation was published in 1970.”


Sunflower: An American Native

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…

This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.



Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.