The 4th of July brings spectacular aerial fireworks shows. However, this time of year nature also puts on its own explosive displays of color. Sunflower fans will 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.
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 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 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.
Commercial Photography & Videography
Professional photographers should note that MDC has 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 https://short.mdc.mo.gov/Zrr.
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.