As Flower, As Edible Root nourishing Natives and wanderers, and as witness to the nation's work force and wars, Helianthus tuberosus repeatedly drew itself to the attention of Adrienne Rich as she drove across the country:
Late summers, early autumns, you can see something that binds
the map of this country together: the girasol, orange gold-petalled
with her black eye, laces the roadsides from Vermont to California runs the edges of orchards, chain-link fences
milo fields and malls, schoolyards and reservations
truckstops and quarries, grazing ranges, graveyards
of veterans, graveyards of cars hulked and sunk, her tubers the jerusalem artichoke
that has fed the Indians, fed the hobos, could feed us all.
Is there anything in the soil, cross-country, that makes for a plant so generous? (11)
Here in part IV of her impressive long poem “An Atlas of the Difficult World” (1991) Rich does not use the botanist's Latin, and she gives no further details about girasol (Jerusalem artichoke), a member of the sunflower family, all of whose varieties are native to the Americas. She (the plant) thrives everywhere, in places both mainstream and marginal, and being thus omnipresent she can feed people in all walks of life.