Sunflower bloom expected this July and August at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area despite drought

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SPANISH LAKE, Mo.—Missouri is starting off summer in droughty conditions.  Sunflower fans will be pleased to know that Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) biologists still expect the sunflowers planted at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake to put on a show this year.   MDC staff has continued to plant multiple sunflower plots again this season. 

Though the extremely dry conditions can put a lot of stress on plants and wildlife, MDC staff believe we’ll still see a good amount of blooming in the sunflower fields.  If the plants are especially stressed, the flowers may be somewhat smaller than previous years, and they might shift their blooming a little earlier and end a bit sooner.  But there should still be plenty to see for sunflower enthusiasts and photographers.

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 began planting additional sunflower stands in addition to the regular dove management fields again a few years ago.  These viewing fields are easily spotted from the road and intended to provide convenient access for taking photos.  MDC crews also stagger 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 additional plots in the fields intended for viewing are planted later in May so that their blooming is timed to occur through mid-August.

The common sunflower (Helianthus annulus) is extremely large and is a showy member from the same plant family as daisies.  The impressive height and brilliant yellow rays of a single sunflower is a striking sight.  Uniform rows of hundreds can be positively mesmerizing.  Sunflower fields have always been a popular draw for sightseers, 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 around late July, depending on growing conditions.