MDC plants sunflowers at Columbia Bottom for viewing and photo opportunities in July and August

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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 has planted additional sunflower plots again this year. 

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 for dove hunting each September.  The large flowers supply seeds that entice the birds, and their lofty stalks create cover for the hunters who pursue them.  Sunflowers also benefit a wide variety of other birds and pollinators.  They lure plenty of photographers too.

MDC work crews have planted extra sunflower stands in addition to the regular dove management fields again this year.  These viewing fields are close to and easily spotted from the road and intended to provide convenient access for taking photos.  MDC crews have 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—depending on weather conditions.

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 bursts 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 another explosion of Columbia Bottom “sunflower selfies” this summer.

MDC 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 pack out any items they bring with them for the consideration of others.

Professional photographers should note that MDC has recently expanded opportunities for commercial photography and filming on conservation areas. Photographers can now utilize MDC areas for commercial use by obtaining a Commercial Photography Permit for $100 annually. A Commercial Videography Permit is now available for all commercial videography on MDC areas with an associated fee of $500 per day.  For more information, see

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. 

Those in St. Charles County might also want to see the sunflower plantings on Weldon Spring Conservation Area.  MDC staff have planted sunflowers for dove management along the road to the Missouri River boat ramp on the area.  These flowers should bloom around mid-to-late July, depending on growing conditions.