If you missed out on California’s wildflower superbloom this spring, you can still witness a similar spectacle before summer fades into fall: In North Dakota, thousands of bright yellow sunflowers are blooming all over the state.
The far northern Great Plains state, which shares a border with Canada, is one of the country’s leading sunflower producers. This year, farmers grew 625,000 acres of the cheery yellow plants, which can be used to make products like nut butter, cooking oil, confectionery seeds and bird food.
The flowers start blooming in late July, then continue their colorful spectacle throughout the month of August. To help encourage travelers to visit the state, the North Dakota tourism office has once again put together a free map of sunflower fields, which includes GPS coordinates, directions and bloom progress.
The fields are located all over the state, with bloom timelines varying depending on location. Some are already in full bloom, while others have only just begun to pop open. Staffers update the map weekly.
Travelers are encouraged to visit the fields and snap photos from the road, but they should avoid walking or driving into them without the landowner’s permission. Some farms, like Nelson’s Pumpkin Patch, invite sunflower aficionados on site to celebrate with events like the annual Sunflower Shindig. Over two weekends in mid-September, travelers can visit the farm and buy bouquets (featuring 21 varieties of sunflowers), pose for photos or sign up for a sunflower-themed “sip and paint” night.
Several sites are offering free sunflower seeds for travelers to take home with them as souvenirs. These locations are also shown on the map, with the tourism office noting that the free seeds can be found inside special mailboxes in the fields.
This year, North Dakota Tourism and the National Sunflower Association also joined together to launch the inaugural National Sunflower Day on August 5. In future years, the special day will always fall on the first Saturday of August.
Cold, rainy conditions this spring meant that farmers in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota were delayed in getting sunflower seeds into the ground. Still, despite the late start, the hardy plants are now thriving.
Overall, U.S. farmers planted fewer acres of sunflowers this year than they have in the past. Across the nation, sunflowers accounted for 1.3 million acres in 2023, which is a 20 percent decline from 2022, per the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
That’s largely because last year was a banner year for sunflowers in the U.S., and farmers are still sitting on stockpiles. They also had trouble hauling last year’s crops to processing plants and grain elevators during the winter because snow storms made transportation difficult.
In addition, the war in Ukraine continues to affect the global sunflower supply chain. Before the war, Ukraine was the largest grower of sunflowers in the world. As Lisa Held wrote for Civil Eats last year, sunflowers are just the “latest example of how instability—whether the result of war, the pandemic or the increasing frequency and severity of climate change events—has far-reaching, complex impacts” on global food supply chains.