Hello Gardeners, I’m Amanda McNulty with Clemson Extension and Making It Grow. Our perennial, beautiful and prolific native swamp sunflower, Helianthus angustifolia, is native to the eastern united states and is an important plant for wildlife. But Helianthus annuus, the annual colorful sunflowers that produce seeds eaten by birds and mammals, including us, is native to the mid-west prairies, and is now a plant of world-wide importance. In the US, we think of it as a food to feed birds and to snack on. In Europe and Russia, however it is the major crop grown for oil production. The oil has a long-shelf life, and a high frying temperature. That combined with a pleasant, mild taste makes it very attractive to cooks and food producers. Sunflowers went to Spain via Mexico and then made their made their way across Eurasia. The most important breeding work for its use as an oil crop has been done in Russia.