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I think I have some sunflowers on my plot from a previous owner in the community garden, and was wondering how I can tell the difference between sunflowers and sunchokes.

Please provide images.

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  • "Please provide images." ^_^ – Stephie Jun 21 '16 at 21:21
  • That's requested as part of the explanation. – black thumb Jun 21 '16 at 22:21
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Sunflowers and sunchokes are both members of the genus "helianthus", hence related and some similarities are to be expected - think family resemblance amongst cousins.

Sunflowers' Latin name Helianthus annuus indicates that they are annuals, so if you have seedlings coming up, they will probably be sunflowers, not sunchokes.

Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus) are perennials that reemerge from the tubers left in the soil or planted in spring, so they will push up leaves, not cotyledons.

Once taller, sunflowers have larger broader, heart-shaped leaves, sunchokes are narrower, more pointed ovals or even the characteristic rhomboid of the asteraceae family, not with the indentation on the stem side a sunflower typically has.

Sunchokes' flowers are like "simplified" sunflowers - often smaller, with fewer ray flowers ("petals"), typically 10-20 in a single layer, whereas sunflowers often have way more and in multiple staggered rows. The center is smaller, too, hosting 60-100 disc florets vs. a few hundred in sunflowers. Some sunflower breeds have multiple flower heads per stem, which I've never seen in sunchokes.

And if all methods fail, carefully dig down along the stem, the presence or absence of a tuber should clear up all doubts.

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  • I don't have any flower heads yet. – black thumb Jun 21 '16 at 13:49
  • Bang on. I have both. Sunchokes also called "jerusalem artichoke". Don't eat the tubers raw, they have an awful tasted. Eat cooked tubers only. – Bulrush Jun 21 '16 at 15:13
  • @Bulrush, no accounting for taste: I prefer them raw, shaved or grated as a salad. – Stephie Jun 21 '16 at 16:52
  • @Stephia: Do you eat the tubers before or after they flower? Lots of plants taste ok before they flower, and taste bad after they flower. – Bulrush Jun 22 '16 at 10:58
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    @Bulrush we harvest in fall/winter, just as much as we need for the kitchen at a time. Without further research I was told to let them alone during the growth phase and harvest when the greens have wilted after the first cold nights or frost. – Stephie Jun 22 '16 at 11:05

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