The sunflower, a member of the Asteraceae family, is a pollen-producing flower. Pollen is a yellow dust-like substance that is produced at the base of the head of the flower and is a nutrient-rich food for insects like bees. Some people are allergic to pollen, and the pollen of the sunflower is no exception.
There are many different species of sunflower today, but all of the current varieties originated in Central America. Today sunflowers can be found around the world, from Canada to Argentina and from the Soviet Union to central Africa, according to the website Alternative Field Crops.
There are both male and female sunflowers. In order for a seed to be fertilised, the pollen of the male plant must find its way to the ovules of the female plant. Bees and other pollen-eating insects are critical for cross-pollination between flowers. According to the National Sunflower Association, by analysing sunflower pollen, growers can determine the lifespan, bloom period and genetics of the plant.
There are four allergens in sunflower pollen that have been identified, according to the website All Allergy. In a 1979 study, it was found that 30 per cent of individuals who show generalised pollen sensitivity, react to sunflower pollen.
According to the Alternative Field Crops Manual, there are several pests that feed on sunflower pollen and cause widespread damage to crop yields. These pests include the sunflower beetle, sunflower maggot, wireworm, grasshopper, weevil, sugarbeet webworm, ragweed plant bug, woolybear and painted lady caterpillar.
Sunflower pollen has been used to track the migration of H. armigera moths in Australia. The H. armigera moth is an invasive species in Australia and has caused massive devastation of native plants, according to the Sunflower Association. H. armigera feeds on sunflower pollen and leaves a pollen trail as it migrates.