KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas is known as the sunflower state, and Ukraine could be known as the sunflower country. The flower plays key roles in the identities of people who call each area home.
The sunflower can be seen in pictures of protests in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. People are also adding the sunflower to Twitter bios and tweets to show support for Ukraine after Ukraine World posted video of a Ukrainian woman confronting a Russian soldier with sunflower seeds last week.
The flower has grown wildly in Kansas for centuries before the sunflower, and its seeds, were shipped from North America to Ukraine. It happened long before Kansas made the sunflower the state’s official flower in 1903.
The climate in both Kansas and Ukraine is similar, allowing the native flower to flourish thousands of miles apart. It’s something Mennonite immigrants from Ukraine and the Crimea area learned when they relocated to Kansas in the late 1800s, seeking greater religious freedoms.
The flowers are hardy and can survive in the strong wind and harsh late summer temperatures of Kansas, much like the people who call the state home. Ukraine describes its people the same way.
The meaning behind the sunflower may vary based on cultures and religions. Some believe the flower brings loyalty because of the way it can follow the sun. Other countries believe sunflowers bring longevity.
Sunflowers gave Ukrainians another option during Lent when the Orthodox Church outlawed the use of butter or lard for cooking. They turned to sunflowers and the production of sunflower oil as an alternative, according to an article in the Desert Sun. The country is now a world leader in the production of sunflower oil.
Ukraine also made sunflowers a key part of history when the country surrendered its last nuclear warhead in 1996. Leaders from Ukraine, the United States, and Russia marked the event by scattering sunflower seeds.
While the sunflower can be found all over North America, and now the world, it has a special place in Kansas. The sunflower can actually be found in each of the state’s 105 counties, according to Kansas Farm Food Connection.
Sunflowers are in high demand in August and September when they bloom in huge fields across the state. People visit the sunflower fields by the thousands to see the beautiful flowers and snap stunning photos of the blooms.