The Glorious Sunflower - the Fourth Sister in a Native American Garden

In one of my earlier blog posts I wrote about the Native Americans' Three Sisters Garden (corn, beans and squash ) 

but I neglected to tell you of the Fourth Sister...a very important member of this family!

This is from Hubpages

"Fourth Sister, didn't look anything like her other sisters, although she was as tall and as slender as First Sister (corn) . That seemed fair to all, because Third Sister and Second Sister shared similar but different features. They could climb and run, while their other two sisters were forced to stand tall and proud."

Mother Sun explained that each sister had her job and each had to benefit from and protect one another.  But Fourth Sister's job was most important of all -- for she was the guardian of the North, planted firmly, to protect others from the robbers who soon would come.

The fourth sister was the elegant sunflower.

The Sisters are known to the Native Americans as the “mothers of life”  but they all need each other to survive. 
  • Corn uses the nitrogen supplied by the nitrogen fixing roots of the beans and provides a place for the beans to climb.
  • The squash suppresses weeds and keeps the soil shaded and moist.
  • The prickly leaves of the squash provide a deterrent from four legged raiders of corn.

So what does the Sunflower do?

The sunflowers keep the birds from devouring the corn.

How? Well, true sunflowers exhibit the heliotropic habit of following the sun through the day but when they are full of sunflower seeds they stay facing the east.

Thus when sunflowers are planted to the north of the garden patch, the birds see the sunflowers first thing in the morning sun and dine on the sunflower seeds rather than the corn kernels....

The FOUR SISTERS celebrate the harmony of nature and bring abundance to farmers and happiness to the well fed home.

By the way, the true giant sunflower is used as an emblem of the philosophy of Spiritualism.

They see the sunflower as forever looking to the light and applaud its unique arithmetic: supposedly each sunflower has 12 sets of leaves ( months in a year) , 52 yellow petals (52 weeks in a year) and 365 seeds (365 days in a year). I cannot verify this but that is the story..... I hope it is true.


  1. I love sun flowers but so do deer! What to do? Build an fenced in garden? Any plants that I can surround sunflowers with that will keep deer away?

  2. well the first that comes to mind is the hearty barberry...but they are an invasive species....why not build a lovely fence of tree posts and felxible netting such as C flex or similar?

  3. Sunflowers, as I have observed from the plantings of a Swiss friend,always drop some of their seeds into the garden soil beneath them, in front of her windows. Likely, the birds dislodge them. So it is a perpetual cycle. To avoid this, I plant Girasole instead, the Jerusalem artichoke, or "Native American artichoke" a tuber produced in the soil beneath the towering flower stalks that turn toward the sun. These again are never completely removed no matter what you think about having taken out every last one of them. They keep on recycling and actually growing larger. They are a recommended food for diabetics.

  4. wow! ok now I shall research 'Girasole' - thank you so much for that...
    I remember that many years ago I did an edible landscape plan for the National Gardening Association (Gardens for All)and used Jerusalem artichoke as a privacy screen along the property line.

  5. I love sunflowers. Thanks for sharing these amazing photos of sunflowers.

  6. You are so welcome..helianthus - a gift from the sun.

  7. I love the Native American "fourth sister" idea. I had never heard that before.

    I'd recommend caution with Jerusalem artichokes. We once planted a few in our small vegetable garden. They spread by underground runners and kept popping up everywhere. We never could get rid of them.

    1. I did not know that about Jerusalem artichoke. Isn't that a big one in edible landscaping?

  8. Well! Who could resist such vibrant beauty. I love them! Cool pagei indeed. Visit my site at

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