Sept. 3, 2009
We have people driving into the Visitors Center wondering where the sunflowers are. Tourists expect sunflowers to be blooming across the state all summer long, but actually they are just starting now.
Wild sunflowers bloom where ever they may have been sown by birds spreading their seed. You see them along the roadside in both ditches and fields. The flowers grow in clusters and the stalks can reach five to seven feet tall.
Cultivated fields of both oil and confectionery sunflowers are blooming now too. We have some fields in Central Kansas but they are more dominant in the western part of the state.
I drive by three fields on my way to Lindsborg, and it’s been fun to watch the development of the big sunflower heads. The buds on four foot stalks follow the sun, so they are always facing the same direction in the fields. When they flower, then the heads stop moving and always face the east as the seeds develop.
Right now the flowers feature brilliant yellow petals. Then they will fade, the heads dropping to ripen their seeds. In late fall a combine will harvest the seeds by stripping them off the dried heads. The seed will be hauled by truck to a grain elevator, and later transported to a plant to be cleaned and packaged if the seeds are for eating, or crushed to be made into sunflower oil.