NEBRASKAland January/February 2014

Read the full issue of NEBRASKAland Magazine from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. See stunning photographs of Nebraska outdoors.

Issue link: http://digital.outdoornebraska.gov/i/232542

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Page 24 of 55

Summer of the Sunflower By Gerry Steinauer, Botanist Last summer, the Sandhills were ablaze with the yellow blooms of sunflowers, and everyone is asking "Why?" The simple answer is the severe drought of 2012 followed by this summer's ample rain. Although the display was most spectacular in the Sandhills, the exceptional sunflower bloom occurred in native prairies and pastures over much of central and western Nebraska, and to a lesser extent, eastern Nebraska. Our state's two annual sunflowers, plains sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris) and common sunflower (H. annuus), were the stars of the show. The late Junethrough October-flowering plains sunflower, adapted to sandy soils, grows throughout Nebraska, except in the southeast, while the August- through September-flowering common sunflower grows on clay and loam to somewhat sandy soils nearly statewide. PHOTO BY ERIC FOWLER PHOTO BY JEFF KURRUS ABOVE: A bumblebee visits the flower of a Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus turberosa) on the banks of the Niobrara River. A true sunflower, the plant is not from Jerusalem, nor an artichoke. OPPOSITE: Plains sunflower blossoms set the Sandhills ablaze with color along Highway 12 in Keya Paha County. JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2014 • NEBRASKAland 25

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