sunflower issues multiple blooms and ANTS

Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)

I took a picture of this sunflower that came up on the edge of my woods because it has multiple blooms. I would like to identify it, and was thinking it came from my bird feeder. (You may see that I have a few others as well.) ANYWAY, upon looking closer I discovered that the backs of the leaves are covered by big black ants. What is going on? Here is a picture of the plant. The next pic will be of the ants.

Thumbnail by JulieQ
Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)

This shows the back of the leaves covered by ants.

Thumbnail by JulieQ
Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Are there other smaller bugs there with the ants? I see smaller dark blobs... If so, those are aphids, and the ants are "herding" them. The aphids suck the juices from the leaves and secrete a sweet, sticky substance which the ants harvest. The ants protect the aphids from predators and keep them from wandering off.

Spray the bottoms of the leaves with a hard squirt of water from the hose to get the ants off, and then squirt any remaining aphids with a squirt bottle containing water and dishsoap. You'll probably have to do that several times.

Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)

I sprayed them today.

Does anyone know what varieties of sunflower are in common birdseed? I wonder if that is what I have? This one is multiple, the ones in back are not (yet, anyway).

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I'm afraid I cant tell you the type of Sunflower you have or even if it is from your bird feeder as birds will eat, then drop all types of seeds from far and wide as they poo the seeds back out, the size of the flower tells me that it is not natural for this type to have multi flower heads on them, but nature plays tricks on plant life and in some cases, that's how we end up with new types of plants, but the multi head could also be a trick played by the ants, when the flower was forming, the ants could either have disturbed the growing flower head and it felt compelled to make another flower to form more seeds, or the other insects the ants are looking after could have done the same thing, I was unable to see too closely what the little dark blobs were, but there are several things it could be, either black fly, scale insect or something else, scale insects are very flat little insects, the scale is really a protective coating that prevents and birds being able to eat them, and are very hard to knock off as they are more or less glued onto the underside of the foliage, or black fly which come in there millions and all cluster together, the black fly can be hosed off easily but if it's scale insects, you either need to remove the foliage or use something like methylated spirits to spray or rub onto the leaves with cotton balls to remove them. if you leave the flowers on your plant to die downs and set seeds, the birds will thank you for it in winter. Good luck. WeeNel.

Montevallo, AL

Dear JulieQ,
I also was searching to find information on the multiple heads or blooms on my sunflowers. I have a sunflower garden that has several "mutated" sunflowers. One actually has 8 blooms! The others range from 2-5 blooms. Sunflowers are astonishing plants. According to the National Sunflower Association it states, " The cultivated sunflower has only one flower or head. But the wild cousins found growing in ditches and other areas throughout much of North America have multiple flowers and heads. Multiples of 20 and more heads are common. The 'wilds' are the genetic basis of today's domesticated sunflower." Also, according to the 2004 Guinness World Records, a sunflower grown in Michigan had 837 heads on one plant.
Hope this helps you in your search!

Spring, TX

I have sunflowers that are bending over once the sunflower head gets large, and they are not straightening back up. Other sunflowers in the same garden are growing mutated looking heads. instead of being round they are caved in and some are really fat. They are getting watered several times a week, and are spaced a foot apart. What is wrong with these sunflowers? Any solutions?

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Can you post some pictures? It's also probably worthwhile to start your own thread since this one is quite old and it sounds like your problem is different than what was going on with JulieQ's plants.

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