I usually avoid popular, busy hiking spots during the peak summer season, preferring the peaceful solitude and silent tranquility of hidden hiking gems that are less frequented. However, feeling bold and courageous, this year I decided to brave the crowds and check out the annual Sunflower Days at Pope Farm Conservancy in Middleton.
Even mid-week, the parking lot was full and volunteers were patiently directing the traffic flow, as visitors came to see this visual phenomenon…a 9-acre sunflower field with over a half million sunflowers in bloom!
The mile-long grassy trail that led to the sunflower field, provided a rare moment without the crowds to capture the fresh beauty of a perfect summer's afternoon: blue skies, puffy clouds, green fields and the proverbial white picket fence!
"Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
― Henry James
Inching a little closer to those beautiful sunflowers...A local farmer leases the crop land from the town of Middleton and plants the seed every year.
""Who knows what may lie around the next corner? There may be a window somewhere ahead. It may look out on a field of sunflowers."
― Joe Hill
Do the sunflowers really follow the sun? The fascinating phenomenon of flowers following the sun across the sky is called heliotropism and this property is mostly observed in young flowerheads. Mature sunflowers finally stop displaying heliotropism when they start to develop seeds and therefore droop from the weight of these seeds. They end up mostly facing east from this point in their lifecycle on.
""I don't think there's anything on this planet that more trumpets life than the sunflower. For me that's because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that's such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life."
~ Calendar Girls Movie
The sunflowers remain in the field until fall, allowing the seeds to dry out. In late October or early November, the farmer will harvest the seeds with a combine and sell them to a local mill where they are added to make a bird seed mix and sold locally as bird feed.
It is estimated that birds will consume one third of the crop before harvest, equaling approximately 4,000 pounds of sunflowers seeds, or somewhere around 80 fifty-pound bags!
“"Eagle of flowers! I see thee stand, And on the sun's noon-glory gaze; With eye like his, thy lids expand, And fringe their disk with golden rays: Though fix'd on earth, in darkness rooted there, Light is thy element, thy dwelling air, Thy prospect heaven."