Musings on Sunflowers as Symbols

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on August 1, 2012

in Blogs

SunflowerThis past weekend I was in Kansas to speak at a catechetical conference. I felt right at home because the state flower of Kansas is the sunflower. This bright, yellow flower is special to my Notre Dame community, thanks to our spiritual mother, St. Julie Billiart. She encouraged us to be like the sunflower. It always faces the sun, turning to follow the sun’s journey from east to west during the day. This flower seems to know that the sun is its source of life. St. Julie said that we should keep our eyes on God the same way.

Significantly, the sunflower follows the sun even when clouds hide it from view. The message the flower conveys is “at times when life is murky and it seems as though God isn’t there, have faith”! God will see us through ordeals, and sunshiny days lie ahead.

The shape of the sunflower—the large disk in the center and the ray-like petals emanating from it—resembles the sun that it follows. (That’s why it’s call the sunflower!) From the start, we resembled God. He created us in his image and likeness. Our destiny as human beings is to become more and more like God, more like Jesus, the Son who showed us how to live. In other words, we are to be creatures who love and who reach out to others, especially to the unloved.

The florets in the center of the sunflower that become seeds are arranged in a complex pattern of left and right spirals. Bet you didn’t know that the florets are placed according to the Fibonocci mathematical formula. The resulting pattern is not only beautiful, but it is the most compact way that the florets can be fitted. It is just one of the many marvelous details in nature that point to the goodness and wisdom of God.

Sunflowers have many uses. They are not only decorative but practical. I heard that they were used to camouflage outhouses! In my kitchen cabinet I keep a bag of sunflower seeds to sprinkle on salads, ever since I learned that they are very nutritious. Hmmm. How useful are we?

What other lessons can you draw from the sunflower?




{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Roger Leahey May 29, 2018 at 4:13 am

The sunflower is a symbol of Catholic faith. It appears on gravestones and there are always two of them; a lower one facing horizontaly and another upright one above facing the noonday son in full bloom. It represents one’s spiritual journey which culminates in an understanding which one cannot always perceive in the beginning.


Kathleen Glavich, SND May 30, 2018 at 6:10 pm

I never heard that before. Thanks for posting it, Roger!


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