MDC plants sunflowers at Columbia Bottom for viewing and photo opportunities

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Saint Louis
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SPANISH LAKE, Mo.—Sunflower fans should have the opportunity again this summer to view and photograph spectacular sunflower displays at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in North St. Louis County. Due to popular demand, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff have planted additional sunflower plots again this year.

MDC staff were unable to plant last year because flood waters lingered on the area. However, conditions have been more favorable this season, so staff utilized a similar planting strategy to the one from 2018, which proved highly popular with visitors.

Spectacular sunflower fields have been an annual tradition at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake. MDC staff have been planting sunflowers for years as part of their management for mourning doves. The area is known as an excellent dove hunting destination each September. The large flowers supply seeds that entice the doves, and their lofty stalks create cover for the hunters who pursue them. Sunflowers also benefit a wide variety of other birds and pollinators.

MDC Wildlife Biologist Jessi Tapp said that this year, as in 2018, her staff has added new sunflower plantings in addition to the dove management fields. Some are close to and easily spotted from the road. They’ve also staggered the timing of the plantings to spread their blooming periods out over a longer period. Visitors should be able to see sunflowers in bloom somewhere on the area from early July through the middle of August.

“We’re really excited about one of the plantings; we strategically placed it so that there’s a chance that it will provide a pretty spectacular view from the cropland overlook,” Tapp said.

Sunflowers usually take about 60 days from planting to flowering. The Columbia Bottom team typically plants about 14 fields throughout the 4,300-acre area in early May as part of the dove management regimen. At the peak of their 10-day blooming period they decorate the area with vibrant brush strokes of gold.

The common sunflower (Helianthus annulus) is an extremely large and showy member from the same plant family as daisies. The impressive height and brilliant yellow rays of a single sunflower are a striking sight. Uniform rows of hundreds can be positively mesmerizing. The sight has always been a popular draw for sight-seers, nature buffs, and photographers.

Facebook and Instagram might see an explosion of Columbia Bottom “sunflower selfies” this summer.

Tapp reminds visitors not to pick the sunflowers. Vehicles should park in designated parking lots or on the shoulder and avoid parking in roadways or blocking gates. MDC also reminds visitors to follow all recommended social distancing guidelines due to considerations regarding COVID-19.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is managed to create a mosaic of bottomland habitats that includes shallow wetlands, bottomland hardwoods, prairie, and cropland. It is located at 801 Strodtman Road. The area can be reached by taking the Riverview Drive Exit from I-270 and travelling north approximately three miles. The area is open every day from a half hour before sunrise until a half hour past sunset.