You’ve no doubt seen flowers in fields many times and thought, “Hey, those are sunflowers.” Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. After all, the sunflower family is one of the largest botanical families. If what you saw was tall and looked very much like the sunflower plants that we grow in our gardens—but perhaps just a bit smaller—you’ve likely encountered an actual wild sunflower plant.
The sunflower plant can grow up to 8 feet tall. Its erect stem is usually unbranched (but it can sometimes be branched). It’s covered in stiff hairs. The leaves are alternately arranged and are generally triangular in shape (they’re more or less heart-shaped and narrow to a tip). The leaves are also covered in stiff hairs.
It’s the flower that’s universally recognized. The flower heads are around 6 inches across, with yellow ray flowers (“petals”). The flowers of the central disk have no showy petals and are brown. The fruits are single-seeded, dry and flat.