There is a beautiful sunflower meme making the rounds with the caption “Sunflowers follow the sun…but did you know when it is cloudy and grey they face each other and share their energy? Imagine if people would do this too.”
It is a beautiful sentiment and one that should definitely be applied to humanity. However, it does not apply to sunflowers.
Young sunflowers do follow the sun, their yellow blossoms pivoting to track the golden star on its orbit from morning to night. Once the sun sets in the west the sunflower slowly turns its head back to the east during the night and waits for the sun to rise again. The technical term for this phenomena is heliotropism. In layperson terms it is known as amazing.
However, on cloudy days immature sunflowers still track the sun’s path whether it is shining through a cloud cover or not. They do not turn towards each other.
Once the sunflower matures it stops following the sun and is content to just soak up the rays as they fall. Fully developed blossoms usually stop and stay in an east facing direction but there is always a rebel in the patch who chooses a different view.
Bonus Trivia: Studies have shown sunflowers that mature to a stop in an east facing direction attract five times as many pollinators as those who don’t. The reason is simple. Bees and other beneficial bugs love warmth and blossoms that face east warm up faster than those facing west.
In conclusion, the meme may be factually wrong but its sentiment is still well worth following.