Maryland to Dedicate This Year’s Sunflower Planting for Ukraine

by MCS Staff

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announces that it will dedicate its sunflower plantings to the people of Ukraine this spring. Each year, the department plants about 130 acres of sunflowers on 15 wildlife management areas across 18 Maryland counties, including McKee Beshers located on River Rd near Poolesville in Montgomery County. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine, which remains besieged by the Russian military.

Per the Maryland Department of Natural Resources: The primary purpose of DNR’s plantings is to provide a source of food for mourning doves, cardinals, chickadees, blue jays, finches and other wildlife species, after the plants mature and dry. Pollinating insects like bees and butterflies also benefit from the abundant nectar and pollen that sunflowers produce. This year the plantings will serve a dual purpose by expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Displaying the large yellow flower has become an important way for many people around the world to express unity and support for Ukrainians who have suffered the war’s destruction and bravely resisted Vladimir Putiin’s aggression against them.

McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, located off of River Road, is home to fields of sunflowers. In recent years, these sunflower fields have become a popular spot for people to visit– usually to take photos of the blooms or to use as a creative background. Often, the sunflowers are in peak bloom around mid-July.  However, there is some variety from year to year when peak bloom will occur– the Department of Natural Resources website explains that many factors affect the timing of the blooms, such as the techniques used in planting, type of seeds used, conditions of the soil, and more.

“The Maryland Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife and Heritage Service plants sunflowers each spring on the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The primary purpose for planting sunflowers on wildlife management areas is to provide a food source for mourning doves, as well as other wildlife species, after the plants mature and dry. Mourning doves are hunted at these fields during hunting seasons that traditionally begin on September 1 and continue through early January.

A number of fields are planted each year, although two fields are designated as Dove Management Fields. These fields are located on River Road, east of Hunting Quarter Road, and on the corner of River Road and Sycamore Landing Road. The Dove Management Area fields have restricted times and days when hunting can occur during the month of September. In addition to mourning doves, sunflowers and sunflower seeds are a favorite food source for a host of other songbirds, mammals and pollinators. Sunflowers require pollination by insects, usually bees, to produce a seed crop. In turn, honey bees and many species of native bees, benefit from the abundant nectar and pollen that sunflowers produce.

The many benefits of sunflowers are lost when they are cut or trampled by people. These sunflowers are planted for the benefit of wildlife and regulations prohibit the cutting, destruction or removal of any plants from these areas. The public is welcome to visit, admire and photograph the sunflowers in bloom. However, visitors must be responsible and ensure that their actions don’t have negative consequences.”

Featured photo by @JoMatt_M

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