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The Etymology of the Sunflower

Botanical Name: Helianthus

Family: Compositae

Helios was the Greek god of the sun. His flower is named from the Greek helious, "sun," and anthos, "flower," because the flowers always turn toward the sun. Helios was drowned by his uncles, the Titans, and then raised to the sky, where he became the sun. He himself was loved by a mortal, Clytie, who died of love for him, because he was indifferent to her--not surprisingly, because she had caused her own sister, whom Helios loved instead, to be buried alive. Clytie was rooted in her despair and followed the course of Helios's journey every day, just as does the sunflower, "who countest the steps of the sun" (William Blake).

~ Diana Wells
from 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names
Copyright 1997, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

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