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Sunflower close up

Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’ (Mexican sunflower cultivar)

October 4, 2018

The entrance to the Herb Garden at Wave Hill is an exceptionally colorful sight this fall. Zinnias in shades of salmon-pink and bright-orange vie for space with red-purple globe-amaranths and, towering above them all, giant, red Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’).

Sunflower setting

This last, a vigorous annual plant, is not a true sunflower but it is closely related; both are members of the aster family. Tithonia rotundifloia is native to Mexico and Central America and grows from spring-sown seed to at least six feet high in just a few months.

Monarch butterflies love its orange-red flowers. One could be forgiven for imagining that they are getting excited about their imminent journey south and are indulging themselves in a little pre-taste of the Mexican flora.

Sunflower butterfly

By Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter