By: Bonnie L. Grant
Sunflowers provide some of the cheeriest blooms. They come in a wide range of heights and bloom sizes as well as colors. The giant flower head is actually two separate parts. The inside is the cluster of flowers, while the larger colored “petals” on the outside are actually protective leaves. The flowers in the center turn into seed when the plant is almost done for the season. Black oil sunflower seeds are the favorite for feeding wild birds and for making sunflower oil.
Types of Sunflower Seeds
There are two kinds of sunflowers grown commercially: oil seed sunflowers and confection sunflowers.
Oil seed flowers are grown for oil production and bird seed. Sunflower oil is low in saturated fats and doesn’t have a strong taste. It is growing in popularity due to its heart healthy reputation.
Confection sunflowers produce seeds that are large gray and black striped seeds that are sold for snacks. They are sold either in the shell, roasted or salted, or shelled for salads and baking. Numerous varieties are used for confection seeds but primarily the Black Peredovic sunflower is grown for oil seed.
Black Peredovik Sunflowers
Usually sunflower seed is a mixture of colors and some are striped. The black sunflower seeds hold the most oil and the Russian cultivar, Black Peredovik sunflower, are oil seed sunflowers used the most. It was bred as a sunflower oil production crop. The Black Peredovik sunflower seeds are medium sized and deep black.
This black oil sunflower seed has more meat than a regular sunflower seed and the outer husk is softer so even smaller birds can crack into the seed. It is rated the number one food for wild birds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The high oil content in Black Peredovik sunflower seeds is important to birds in winter as they will spread the oil on their feathers, increasing buoyancy and keeping them dry and warm.
Other Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
When the sunflower head matures, the flowers become seeds. These sunflower seeds can be a variety of shades but having all black ones is rare.
The Red Sun sunflower cultivar has predominantly black seeds as does Valentine sunflower. There are always a few brown or striped sunflower seeds and these cultivars are not grown for oil as is the Black Peredovic sunflower.
Even the common or native sunflowers can produce black seeds mixed in with the other colors. These will go first if you leave the sunflower head out for food. Squirrels, rodents and birds will eat the black sunflower seeds before anything else due to the higher calorie and fat content.