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How do sunflowers make so many seeds?

1. Choose and research your project

There is a sunflower in my neighborhood that is over 7 feet tall and the flowerhead is the width of a cake plate.  This inspired me to read up on the physiology of sunflowers.  I learned a few things about how they produce so many seeds and how they move to follow the sun.  I decided to do my project on the sunflower's seed making prowess, with a focus on it's physiological properties.

I am a scientist, not a illustrator, so the sketching part of this project is almost impossible for me.  I better get to work!

2. Gather references

This part of the project was easy because the sunflower is common and has been studied for years by people all over the world.  Here are just a few images that I found helpful in understanding sunflower reproduction.

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3. Share your concept

I would like to show the disk of a sunflower as a daycare or nursery where baby sunflowers (the seeds) are neatly lined up.  In my mind, I picture it a bit like the nursery in a hospital where all the bassinets are lined up and the babies are cutely swaddled and snugly sleeping wearing tiny hats.

Figure 3 from my research doc shows a cross section of a sunflower where you can see the ovule of each floret in the disk.  You can see how they are packed in there really close.  The florets at the far right have matured into seeds (actually, they are fruit, I  learned this while researching!)    I will try to re-draw this with the florets as babies.  Not sure how I will do this exactly, but here goes!


1. Draw to Learn

This part brought back memories from school.  I learned all this plant physiology stuff years ago in undergrad and graduate biology classes but forgot about it.  Here are jsut a few sketches based off of the photos and illustrations I found online:

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3. Sketch to step away from reality

How can I show the individual florets before and after fertilization?  After a flower gets fertilized, it makes fruit.  You could say that the result of reproduction is the fruit, or the baby.  In this case, it is a sunflower seed wrapped up in a hull.  I like to think of it as a baby swaddled in a blanket.  Here are some sketches I came up with.

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The Final Scientific Illustration:

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