During monsoon, I spotted a tiny false sunflower in my garden, which had a striking resemblance to sunflower, which belongs to the family Asteraceae.
The petite yellow bloom had a large conical head, which was tightly packed with small florets. Around the disc, were the outer layering of petals, called ray flowers.
Thereby, making it similar to sunflower as both share similar characteristics– that is they are inflorescence flowers, wherein the entire head consists of several small flowers. You can see this by zooming in the photo.
The entire plant was supported by the stalk, from where several stems were spurting. On those stems were tiny green buds, ready to take the form of a beautiful flower.
Unlike sunflowers, the doppelganger was small in stature. The false sunflower was only 10 inches tall and was creeping like a vine.
During that time, it was nurturing altogether with rain lilies and mint plants. And was barely receiving any nutrition therefore, it didn’t look in its best shape.
Since it was a wild plant and was growing in our backyard. I was alarmed, that my mother would definitely pluck it from the roots and throw it away, thinking it’s a weed. Thence, I gently dug around its root and uprooted it, to grow it separately.
After that, I quickly ran to my room and took an old plastic bottle, which I had kept for re-using in gardening. I made drainage holes in the bottle using an old knitting needle and transplanted the plant in it.
Then I took some garden soil and some old manure from a pot, that was placed in our veranda. Firstly I made sure there were no other weeds in the soil and re-potted the plant carefully without disturbing its roots.
When the plant was potted, I watered it generously. When I checked the other day, it was doing well. My little sunshine was smising and the sparrows were loving it.
On examining its spent flowers, which were all withered up. I found that the tiny florets in the disc or the head (centre) of the flower bore its seeds.
Another thing that I noticed was, that these tiny wildflowers were growing in abundance around the area where I live. Off-lately, I have developed a keen interest in learning about wild plants and will share my observations with you here.
Yesterday, when I went for a stroll on the winter rain-washed streets of my neighbourhood. I noticed false sunflowers sprawling around the drains and potholes. What caught my attention was at some places the blooms were smaller, whereas, in other areas, they were bigger.
Maybe, this has something to do with the soil quality of that area or the other plants might be consuming the nutrients, essential for the growth of false sunflowers.
On the contrary, the soil where the plant was producing bigger blooms could be enriched with the nutrients and minerals needed by the plant. Another hypothesis is, that the plants growing nearby might be living off the nutrients left unconsumed by the false sunflowers.
If you too have good luck in spotting this plant in your backyard and want to grow it successfully. Then here’s what you need to know.
On one winter morning, while absorbing the serenity around me. My eyes darted itself on the false sunflower plant. And while I was thoroughly examining it.
I noticed a few black ants marching to and fro on the plant. And beneath them were aphids, that were glued onto the stem of the plant, sucking off the sap.
Aphids are destructive insect pests that feed on plants and weaken them by acting as vectors for plant viruses. They destroy ornamental plants by depositing honeydew. This is the reason why ants shield them. As aphids barter their safety with honeydew, which the ants love to feast on.
Another interesting fact is that ants stroke the backs of aphids. So they can produce more of this gooey substance, which is sometimes called— milk. Their unusual semantic relationship has instilled my curiosity in the insect kingdom.
Once I found this, I ran inside my kitchen to find a solution for getting rid of the aphids. So I decided to make homemade insecticidal soap. For this, I made a concoction, using two tablespoons of liquid dish soap, which would help in getting rid of the wax coating, that aphids have on their bodies.
I also added a spoonful of turmeric powder, which is anti-bacterial in nature. I mixed up the two in a bottle of water and sprayed it onto the plant, and was able to get rid of the aphids. I did this in the evening and showered the plant with normal water the next morning.
Viola! my false sunflower plant was looking fresh and now it’s doing well. I recently pruned it a bit because the stem was looking leggy. Though being false and wild, the radiant lemon-yellow flowers of the false sun-flower plant was enchanting its admirer again.
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