In summer, sunflower children turn their blonde heads to follow the sun around the sky all day long. Young blooms are flexible enough to do just that, but mature flowers face east toward the rising sun and cannot move.
What seems at first glance to be a single sunflower is actually a composite or community, a collection of more than a thousand tiny florets arranged in a perfect spiraling sequence. Each floret is inclined toward the next floret by approximately 137.5°, and in mathematics, this is known as the golden angle. The arrangement creates a breathtaking series of interconnecting spirals in which the number of left oriented spirals and the number of right oriented spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. An admirer of spirals, golden angles and Fibonacci sequences whenever and wherever they turn up, I'm always delighted to encounter another one, and meeting a sunflower in any season is a happy thing - discovering a whole field of them is even better.
October's faded specimens of Helianthus annuus are downright wondrous in their imposing stature, earthy coloration, spikiness and sculptural complexity. Determined to engender legions of progeny and perpetuate their particular genetic brew, they birth thousands of seeds every autumn, mothering whole dynasties of towering stalks, fuzzy leaves and beaming golden faces that will appear when springtime rolls around next time. It's something I try to remember in winter, that sunflowers are sleeping somewhere under our towering heaps of snow.
In "Enriching the Earth", Wendell Berry describes the earth's late autumn cycling as "slowly falling into the fund of things", and I am fond of the notion. Going to seed in the last quarter of the year is a good thing, a fine thing, a natural and necessary thing, and every coin in nature's wild unruly banking is kin, whatever its size, shape or denomination.