Sunflower glory days are here

A sunflower is in full bloom in a field in western Reno County.
A sunflower is in full bloom in a field in western Reno County. The Wichita Eagle

It has been a summer of rain and humidity in Kansas, and sunflowers are luxuriating in fields like rich folk at the spa.

August is when crop sunflowers in Kansas are at the height of their bloom. They are the large, beefy cousins to the wild sunflowers designated as the state flower.

The crop flowers stand in fields so huge that their dinner plate-size faces look like vast crowds in stadiums. And photographers – both amateur and professional – like to flock to them as readily as blackbirds to the same fields.

The fields of yellow and green last seven to 14 days before the flowers begin to drop their petals and droop, awaiting late September and October, when the combines roar across the fields.

“The weather forecast continues to feature generally favorable conditions throughout the Midwest with no significant hot and dry conditions during the next ten days,” the National Sunflower Association reported in its Aug. 22 newsletter. “Weather conditions remain key as August is the most important month for oilseed crops.”

Those seeds will be used for cooking oil, snack products and birdseed. Kansas ranks fourth in the nation for producing sunflowers, harvesting more than 135,000 acres. It comes in behind South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.

Try as you might, you may not see many sunflower fields in Sedgwick County. You will need to edge into Reno County or other counties to see the large fields, such as those west of Hutchinson on Reno County’s Fourth Street Road.

The biggest fields of sunflower crops are found in northwest Kansas. Sherman County produces more sunflowers than anywhere else in the state.

And in Goodland – the Sherman County seat and the sunflower capital of Kansas – you can find a giant reproduction of Vincent van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers in a Vase.”

To see the Kansas state flower, the Helianthus annuus, simply drive a back road in almost any of the state’s 105 counties. You will see the smaller, wild, uninhibited sunflowers standing in defiance of wind, drought, rain and almost anything else Kansas weather can throw at them.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner