See the Sunflowers at MDC’s Columbia Bottom Conservation Area this July and August

News from the region
Saint Louis
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SPANISH LAKE, Mo.—They may be a little later this season, but sunflower fans will still have the opportunity again this summer to view and photograph remarkable sunflower displays at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake.  Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) staff has planted multiple sunflower plots again this year, however droughty conditions this past spring have caused a slight delay in the process, putting the initial blooms emerging in mid-July this year. 

“The sunflower fields at Columbia Bottom are a little behind schedule this year, due to planting delays and an early drought after planting,” said Clinton Owenby, MDC Regional Resource Management District Supervisor.  “We are just now starting to see early flower heads on some of the first fields planted. The recent rain we’ve gotten in late June should really help accelerate things,” Owenby said.  He estimated prime viewing should be mid-July through late August, depending on weather conditions.

Showy sunflower fields have been an annual tradition at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area.  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 throughout the 4,300-acre area to spread their blooming periods out over a longer period.  Sunflowers usually take about 60 days from planting to flowering.  At the peak of their 10-day blooming period each planting decorates 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.  Sunflower fields have always been a popular draw for sight-seers, nature buffs, and photographers.

MDC reminds visitors not to pick the sunflowers.  Vehicles should park in designated parking lots or on the shoulders and avoid blocking roadways or gates.  MDC also reminds visitors to pack out any items they bring with them for the consideration of others.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area 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.  Columbia Bottom 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 mid to late July, depending on growing conditions.