Columbia Bottom sunflowers gain popularity with extended growing season

The sunflower fields at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake, pictured above, attracted more visitors than usual this summer. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.

Columbia Bottom’s sunflower fields are a popular spot for photo shoots this summer. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.

Keep a lookout on Facebook and Instagram this summer — there may just be an explosion of St. Louis County “sunflower selfies” taken at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake.

County residents and visitors fascinated with sunflowers should have even more opportunities to view and photograph them thanks to a decision by a state agency to extend the blooming season at the site.

New this season, Columbia Bottom staff has planted some additional sunflower fields, many of which are close to the visitors’ center and easily spotted from the road. Staff at the Missouri Department of Conservation, or MDC, has staggered the timing of the plantings to spread the blooming periods out through mid-August.

“It normally takes about 60 days from planting to flowering,” MDC Wildlife Biologist and Columbia Bottom manager Andy Tappmeyer said in a news release written by Dan Zarlenga.

His team typically plants about 14 fields throughout the 4,300-acre area in early May as part of a dove management regimen.  The large plantings reach fruition by the start of July, and for their 10-day blooming period they decorate the area with vibrant brush strokes of gold.  The sight has always been a popular draw for sightseers, nature buffs, and photographers.

“This year, we’re giving visitors more chances to enjoy the sunflowers by planting some additional plots,” Tappmeyer said.

Many of the new plantings are close to the visitors’ center and easily spotted from the road.  His staff has 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 through the middle of August or so this year,” Tappmeyer said.

That means that those fascinated with sunflowers should have even more opportunities to view and photograph them.

The area is open every day from a half hour before sunrise until a half hour past sunset.

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