Waiting to harvest Early Russian sunflower seeds

Almost all dried up - leaves, petals, bracts...

It’s been 4 weeks since my Early Russian sunflower finished blooming. By this, I mean that all the little disc flowers had bloomed, giving the centre of the sunflower that pincushion look, and the ray flowers, or outer ring of petals, had started drying up. Remember, it’s a composite flower. Since then, I’ve been watching the plant like a hawk, because I want to harvest the seeds to plant more of this gorgeous sunflower – especially since my purchased seeds seem to have lost their viability. :(

By all appearances, the flower now looks ready for the seed harvest – even the green bracts that cup the flower base have dried up. Some people advise removing the flower head at this point, together with about 30cm of the stem, and to hang it upside down somewhere airy to dry for a few more weeks; others advise waiting until the entire back of the head dries all the way to the stem. I’ve done the latter before. However, with the rainy weather (sporadic as it is) that we’ve been having, I’m considering taking it now in case it gets moldy – always a possibility in our humid climate.

There's a lot of what looks like spider webs covering the surface of the drying flower head. I don't really want to know what's beneath...

Besides that, it looks like spiders or something have taken up residence in the drying flower head – there seems to be a layer of web covering a lot of the surface of the centre of the flower. That’s the one thing I don’t enjoy about harvesting sunflower seeds – there’s an Eek factor because you don’t know what’s started living in the dried flower heads. This is the first giant sunflower I’ll be harvesting, and I just know there’ll be many more insects in there than I’ve encountered before… e_e

Should I wait or should I cut it now? Hmm…

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