The flowers are cheerful, make for great family photos and it’s nice to get outside. Sunflowers have long been the inspiration of artists, but they also serve as an important source of nutrition for wildlife. The mourning dove and the goldfinch are just two species that enjoy feasting on the seeds created after the colorful golden blooms have faded. Most fields of sunflowers hit peak bloom from mid-July until mid-August. Some fields are planted at different times which allows for an extended blooming field.
Sunflowers in Maryland
Birds are not the only wild creatures who seek out sunflowers as a food source. The stalks and leaves are tasty food for white-tailed deer; so much so that DuPont Corporation’s Chesapeake Farms, located near Chestertown, Md, has put up a single strand electric fence to limit deer from accessing the area where they plant sunflowers in early May.
Native Americans cultivated sunflowers and raised them as a food crop. They were as important as corn and squash. The plants had multiple uses. The seeds were ground into flour, pressed for oil, and eaten as a snack. The flowers were used for brewing tea, herbal medicines, and for creating dye for body painting. The dried stalks were used as a building material.
The total area planted across the U.S. in sunflower in 2020 totaled 1.54 million acres, according to the USDA, an increase of 14 percent from 2019. While a significant portion of the harvested seeds are processed for bird seed and snacks, the majority are processed into sunflower oil.
Perennial sunflowers bloom from August into October while annual sunflowers start blooming in July. A sign of summer sunshine, sunflowers do look handsome in fresh flower arrangements. They can also be hung upside down for drying. Simply tie together with twine the plants you wish to dry. Hang them upside down in a cool dark place and wait two to four weeks.
Where to find sunflowers
Here are places where you can enjoy fields of sunflowers. Check ahead for peak bloom.
McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area – Poolesville
16898-16500 River Rd, Poolesville, MD 20837
This is state owned and managed property. There is no fee and picking or removing sunflowers is prohibited. McKee-Beshers WMA has no bathroom facilities, no benches and no picnic tables. The dirt paths may be bumpy and or muddy. Be prepared for ticks and plan accordingly.
Admission: no fees
Maple Lawn Farms & Winery – New Park, PA
2885 New Park Rd, New Park, PA 17352
Maple Lawn Farms planted 40 different varieties of sunflower on eight acres this year. They host a Sunflower Festival August 13-15 and 20-22, with a preview August 6-8 that includes a tractor ride and flower picking.
Admission: $10 for children ages 3-10. $18 for adults. Purchase your tickets in advance online for a discount.
Gold Petal Farm
37260 Manor Road, Chaptico, MD
NOTE: the bridge is out on Maddox Rd. YOU MUST enter Manor Rd. from Hurry Rd.
Maze and pick-your-own flowers. This year Gold Petal Farm is celebrating iconic painter Bob Ross. One maze is a recreation of Bob Ross’s painting Spectacular Waterfall, and the other maze is an image of Bob Ross.
Admission: paid onsite, no reservations needed. $15 per person. Age 6 and under are free
Pick your own flowers: Sunflowers $1/stem. Zinnias $.50/stem