March 4, 2022 7:54 am Published by

As seen in the Morning Brew (one of my favorite resources for the news of the day in short form) , we’re sharing this lovely snippet in support of the Ukraine: 

“Ukraine is known as the “breadbasket of Europe” thanks to its prodigious supply of wheat. But where it truly shines is in sunflower cultivation: Ukraine is the top producer of sunflower seeds globally, and the sunflower is its national flower. 

Young sunflowers are famously heliotropic, which means they follow the sun from east to west throughout the day. For their dedication to the sun’s journey across the sky, sunflowers have come to represent loyalty, energy, and warmth. 

But the sunflower has another property: healing. Sunflowers are what scientists call “hyperaccumulators”—plants that are uniquely skilled at sucking up heavy metals from the ground and storing them, safely, in their stems and leaves. 

And they’ve been put to work as a cleanup crew. Following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, scientists planted sunflowers to absorb radioactive materials in local ponds. Sunflowers were also used to remove lead from a contaminated manufacturing site near Detroit in the ’90s. 

The method has its limits. When Japanese scientists tried to replicate the success of Chernobyl after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in 2011, the sunflowers lost their absorption powers under different soil conditions. It’s clear there are simply too many toxins in this world for sunflowers, alone, to bear.” 

—Neal Freyman