Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Sunflowers and hospices

It’s not known when or why the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) first became associated with hospices, but as early as 1994 the Streatham, Brixton & Clapham News of 9 June contained an article about Trinity (now Royal Trinity) Hospice in Clapham, London Borough of Lambeth: ‘Wear your sunflower with pride and help raise funds  …  Sunflowers will be sold throughout the week in aid of the hospice and has [sic.] become the symbol for the week.’  Stickers depicting a stylised sunflower were sold in aid of the hospice at the same time, and one assumes that the newspaper article referred to these, rather than real flowers.

A year later, on 29 June 1995 the Hoddesdon, Hertford & Ware Herald carried an article about the Martorana family who had raised £2,000 for a Letchworth hospice, in memory of a mother who was cared for there.  The article identifies the main fund-raiser as Mr Joe Martorana, but the accompanying photograph shows ‘Jo Martorana [a woman] and her brother-in-law with hospice staff’.  Jo is shown wearing a large artificial sunflower.

In June 1996 the National Association of Hospice Fundraisers placed large advertisements in The Times, and, no doubt, other newspapers, depicting sunflowers with the caption: ‘Brighten someone’s life; Get a sunflower and support your local Hospice’.

According to ActiveLife, May/June 1997, the 1996 appeal raised over £2 million.

Since that time sunflowers have become widely associated with hospice fund-raising, as shown on the two images shown here, a poster displayed in the Information Centre in August 2018, and a leaflet available from St Bartholomew’s Church in July 2018, both in Crewkerne, Somerset.

Addendum:  According to The Times, of 24 June 2020, the Duchess of Cornwall will plant a sunflower ‘at one of the East Anglia Children Hospices of which she is patron’, in memory of Fraser Delf, who died aged nine, and whose brother, aged 13, had raised more than £18,000 for the hospice that cared for him.

Updated 18 December 2020.