More sunflowers with less definite answers
Experts agree there are more common sunflowers this year, but why?
Take a drive through the county and you are sure to see common sunflowers lining the sides of roads both in and out of the ditches.
If you have noticed more of the state flower this year than in years past, you are not alone.
“We’re right in the heart of it all, in the Flint Hills,” said agronomist Stewart Duncan with K-State’s Northeast Area Extension Office. “And this common sunflower will be blooming through September with a few weeks left, at least.”
Experts in the area have varying thoughts as to why there may be more of these seed-producing flowers.
Duncan said this summer’s weather is surely a contributor.
“Our rainfall patterns have helped with sunflower growth,” he said. “There was a lot of early moisture, even though we’re not getting it right now.”
Craig Freeman with Kansas Native Plant Society agreed.
“We’ve had plenty of moisture this year and the heat hasn’t been excessive,” he said. “It is an exceptional growing season. A little more moisture can go a long ways for these fall blooming species. Most of these sunflowers are perennials, and if you give them a little extra moisture they’ll really put on a display.”
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While weather may encourage more sunflower growth, less mowing on the sides of the roads would allow sunflowers to extend their stay.
“I think a lot of it is they did not mow as much as they have in the past, such as the Labor Day mowing that they normally do,” Duncan said.
Freeman said there has been interest in reducing roadside moving in an attempt to increase flowers available for honeybees and other pollinators.
Krista Dahlinger, also with Kansas Native Plant Society, said mowing is a big concern and the society is glad to see less roadside mowing throughout the state.
“In some areas, there is less mowing, so we are seeing more sunflowers,” she said.
However, road and bridge superintendent Jesse Hamm said the county has not cut back and is mowing as usual.
“I’d rather keep them mowed down on the sides of the road,” he said. “We mow all year long and concentrate our mowing on asphalt roads all summer long no matter what. During the fall and winter we catch up with mowing on gravel and dirt roads.”
Less weed spraying?
Since the county is still mowing, Hamm said he is not sure why there are more sunflowers that he, too, has noticed.
“I actually just spoke to the weeds department as I do have a lot of these sunflowers growing that is out of the norm,” Hamm continued.
Hamm said he thought that maybe weed killer did not work on sunflowers this year.
“I am just not quite sure what has happened,” he said.
Noxious Weed Department director Bud Druse said he has been spraying for weeds, but not for sunflowers. That is intentional.
“We are doing some spraying right now, but we’re focusing on the noxious weeds like Johnson grass,” Druse said. “Sunflowers are not a noxious weed, so it’s just not a focus right now.”
Killing sunflowers requires a different herbicide than noxious weeds, he said.
Druse did say he has noticed more sunflowers, but he does not believe it is just because his department is not spraying them this year.
“Right now, I’m noticing more of everything — not just sunflowers,” he said. “The past three summers have been wet summers, and now that we are having a drier one everything is wanting to grow.”
Last modified Sept. 13, 2017