Measuring Sun Flower Heads

If you were to take the same sunflower head to 5 different contests and had it measured by five different "officials" chances are you could easily come away with 5 different measurements. I have participated in contests and also witnessed as an observer how they were measured and most of the time it is an over the top type of measurement. Usually from the widest point on one side to the widest point on the other.

Measuring Sunflower heads Measuring Sunflower heads Measuring Sunflower heads

Measured over the top this sunflower measures 19". This method also is a good size indicator for sunflower heads that grow in a curved shape. Some of these curved heads are massive in total over the top measurement. I believe this method is one component in determining an accurate reflection in a sunflowers overall head size.

I have read that the "proper way" to measure sunflower heads is to measure the total length from the tip of a petal on one side to the tip of a petal on the other side, as the diagram and picture indicate.

Measuring Sunflower heads Measuring Sunflower heads

Measured the "official" flat way this same sunflower now measures 23.25" across. While I do like the supposed increase, it is truly not an indicator of head size. To measure the petals is just plain silly. It would be like weighing a giant pumpkin along with the plant. It's not the size of the plant, it's the size of the fruit or head. This petal tip to petal tip also penalizes any head that isn't perfectly flat. We all know sunflowers grow in many different angles or curves.

The second component to accurately measure a sunflower's head is to measure the circumference.

Measuring Sunflower heads

Using the same sunflower head I stuck a small rod into the side or edge and took flexible seamstress measuring tape and carefully measured all the way around the head. This head measured 49.25" in circumference.

The most accurate way to truly determine sunflower head size is to take the over the top measurement and add the circumference to come up with a final accurate number. In my example it would be 19" + 49.25" = 68.25" total score.

The current world record for wide headed sunflowers is 32.25" from petal tip to petal tip. I did a little math and my best guess is that the head should have measured approximately 26.25" over the top.

Sunflowers are a great competitive plant to grow with a lot of interested gardeners. It's about time the current inaccurate and inconsistently used measuring method be overhauled so we can all compete on a level playing field.