Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase (MAPK) genes encode proteins that regulate biotic and abiotic stresses in plants through signaling cascades comprised of three major subfamilies: MAP Kinase (MPK), MAPK Kinase (MKK), and MAPKK Kinase (MKKK). The main objectives of this research were to conduct genome-wide identification of MAPK genes in Helianthus annuus and examine functional divergence of these genes in relation to those in nine other plant species (Amborella trichopoda, Aquilegia coerulea, Arabidopsis thaliana, Daucus carota, Glycine max, Oryza sativa, Solanum lycopersicum, Sphagnum fallax, and Vitis vinifera), representing diverse taxonomic groups of the Plant Kingdom. A Hidden Markov Model (HMM) profile of the MAPK genes utilized reference sequences from A. thaliana and G. max, yielding a total of 96 MPKs and 37 MKKs in the genomes of A. trichopoda, A. coerulea, C. reinhardtii, D. carota, H. annuus, S. lycopersicum, and S. fallax. Among them, 28 MPKs and eight MKKs were confirmed in H. annuus. Phylogenetic analyses revealed four clades within each subfamily. Transcriptomic analyses showed that at least 19 HaMPK and seven HaMKK genes were induced in response to salicylic acid (SA), sodium chloride (NaCl), and polyethylene glycol (Peg) in leaves and roots. Of the seven published sunflower microRNAs, five microRNA families are involved in targeting eight MPKs. Additionally, we discussed the need for using MAP Kinase nomenclature guidelines across plant species. Our identification and characterization of MAP Kinase genes would have implications in sunflower crop improvement, and in advancing our knowledge of the diversity and evolution of MAPK genes in the Plant Kingdom.