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The sunflower in this picture is the only one that survived out of three that my kids grew from seeds as one of their school projects. At the end of the last school year, we brought them home, when the stems couldn't have been much bigger than 6 inches. The three lived happily in pots for several weeks, until they grew too tall for the 23 inch protective tent they were in, after which I planted them in the ground. Alas, two of the three succumbed very early in their lives, well before they flowered, to slugs or bunnies, or other critters that would do sunflowers harm. But the one in the picture grew enough to flower, and recently lose its petals.

The sunflower is probably around 80 - 90 days old at this point.

My question is: what is likely next for this sunflower? And specifically, is it likely to produce seeds? It has been visited by bees, flies, ants, and presumably other pollinators. But there are no other nearby sunflowers, and I was unclear: is "successful" pollination always strictly from one flower to a distinct other? Or if a pollinator picks up pollen from one area of the large sunflower head and lands in another area of the same head, does that "count" as pollination?

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Whilst sunflowers are wind pollinated by other sunflowers growing nearby, they are also pollinated very effectively by insects such as bees, so yes, it should produce seed.

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  • If you have knowledge here, I wonder if you might expand your answer on this aspect: I am not very clear: why/how can a flower be "self-pollinated"? What I mean is: I take your answer to mean that a bee might pick up pollen from one area of the sunflower head and deposit it at another area on the same sunflower head, and that "counts" as pollination -- is that true? I was unclear on this specifically: whether pollination is necessarily picking up pollen from one flower and depositing it on a distinct other flower (of the same species, of course).
    – StoneThrow
    Aug 19 at 15:02
  • The wikipedia article on plant reproduction implies that pollination means the transfer of pollen from one flower to another flower...but it also doesn't say so explicitly either. Reaching back into long-forgotten high school biology, I think that the reproductive parts of plants are stamens and pistils...and I think my question is: does one sunflower head have both, and does transferring pollen between stamen and pistil on the same sunflower head "work" as pollination? I'm nearly 100% certain there are no other sunflowers nearby.
    – StoneThrow
    Aug 19 at 15:07
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    @StoneThrow Pollination usually means that the pollen must originate from a plant with another genetic composition than the seed plant (cross pollination). In many cases pollen from the seed plant will do the job too and such a species we call self-pollinated. This is indeed the case for sunflowers. shesaidsunflower.com/how-do-sunflowers-pollinate
    – Gyrfalcon
    Aug 19 at 18:59
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Many sunflowers are able to pollinate themselves using their own pollen in the case that they do not get pollen from a different plant.

Now that the ray florets have matured and fallen the seed should already be in place in the head. Look at the back of the seed head and if it has changed colour from light green to yellow then you can cut the head and dry it inside to ensure that birds and other critters don't get there first. Look carefully at the face of the head and gently rub the little buttons - you will find that the actual seeds are buried under a little cap which should easily fall off. The seed will either be a completely black seed (oil type) or a light brown with black stripes (striped seed type).

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