SPANISH LAKE, Mo. – The sunflower displays at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area are now in bloom. David and Cathy Walter found their way to Spanish Lake to see the much-talked-about flowers.

“They are bigger than I thought, when you get up close to them,” David said.

Cathy agreed, saying, “From a distance, they look like they were small, like the black-eyed Susans, but you get close and you realize how big (they are).”

The Missouri Department of Conservation plants sunflowers each year as part of their dove management program. 

“We plant the sunflowers. They bloom in July. And by September, the are going to see. And September is our dove hunting season,” said Dan Zarlenga, Missouri Department of Conservation.

The sunflower seeds entice the birds and the tall stalks create cover for hunters. But the flowers have become known for another reason.

“But people started taking notice of it in July when the flowers were blooming,” Zarlenga. “And they started coming out and taking pictures and it became very popular.”

Now, conservation crews plant multiple fields at staggered times so visitors can see blooms from early July through mid-August. But getting the best shot of the sunflowers depends on the time of day.

“If you can manage to come out early in the morning or later in the evening, when the sun is lower in the sky, you’re going to get a nice glow, a nice warm light on things that look a lot better. The second-best thing would be a cloudy day like we have today where the light’s all nice and even,” Zarlenga said.

Remember the best camera is the one you have on you. Cellphone cameras are good at close-up shots.

“You can get some beautiful close up of the flowers,” Zarlenga said. “There’s lots of bumblebees and other pollinators like moths and stuff you might get pictures of. But, of course, if you have got a nicer camera with interchangeable lenses, you can do all kinds of things.”

So come out, enjoy the flowers, but remember to be kind to nature.

“We do ask that you don’t pick any sunflowers or that you don’t do anything to destroy the sunflowers,” Zarlenga said.

Professional photographers should note that they 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 open a half-hour before sunrise and a half-hour after sunset each day. If you are in St. Charles and you want to see the sunflowers, you can also check them out later this month at the Weldon Spring Conservation Area.