This spring, Instagram feeds flooded with perfectly posed shots from a transitory super bloom in California. Unfortunately, the photogenic phenomenon was short-lived thanks to a tide of petal-plucking tourists causing an outright frenzy over the flowers.
If you missed your chance to attend one of nature’s most colorful shows, and the other spring blooms across the country, there’s a later cascade of colorful crops to make up for it: a surge of sunflower fields blanketing North Dakota.
Though floral festivities are usually associated with the advent of spring or the bright sun of early summer, the sunflower bloom in North Dakota takes place as the days start to shorten and fall looms on the horizon. The best time to witness the gold-and-yellow spectacle is now: August generally sees peak growing season.
In North Dakota, it’s not just a field or a state park here and there bursting into bloom: sunflowers pop up all over the state, from Bismarck to Lakota.
A bit off the beaten path, North Dakota may not top your bucket list, but if you’re a bloom enthusiast, it should be on it: the state ranks number two when it comes to year-over-year sunflower production. The National Sunflower Association reports that 480,000 acres across North Dakota were set for sunflower planting in 2019, so there should be ample opportunity to find a field for yourself.
“As one of the top producers of sunflowers, North Dakota offers some of the largest and most scenic sunflower fields in the United States,” said Sara Otte Coleman, Director of the North Dakota Tourism Division, in a statement. “Our golden fields attract visitors who are drawn to the simple beauty found across the state each summer. Canola, flax, barley, and wheat also provide a patchwork of color through the summer and fall.”
But is North Dakota’s sunflower super bloom really comparable to the infamous Californian display?
“While the stunning outbreak of flowers throughout the state is similar to the California super bloom,” said Coleman, “North Dakota’s sunflower bloom is more predictable in the sense that it typically occurs around the same time each year: early to mid-August.”
So instead of rushing to the state in droves, visitors can plan ahead with a near guarantee that they’ll spot sunflowers. However, sunflower chasers should take note that farmers often rotate crops in order to maintain the health and fertility of the soil, so a field filled with sunflowers one year may be blooming with wheat the next.
According to North Dakota Tourism, the best spots for sunflower scouting this year include fields in Mott, Aneta, Mohall, Lakota, and Bismarck; sunflowers are planted in higher concentrations in central and western North Dakota. Some of the fields are in peak bloom now, while others will erupt into meadows of yellows over the coming weeks. Once blossomed, sunflowers typically remain at their peak for about two weeks.
If you decide to pay North Dakota’s sunflower spectacle a visit, take note of the most important rule: Never enter a field without the landowner’s permission.
“Most farmers are happy to have visitors enjoy the beauty of their fields and will allow them to walk near the sunflowers and take photos,” said Coleman. “It is important, however, to be respectful of the farmer and the land. Visitors should be careful not to trample or knock down the stalks.”
As always, be considerate. With their massive blooms, sunflowers may appear heartier and more widespread than delicate wildflowers, but the same rules apply: don’t pluck, don’t touch, and leave the flowers where you found them.