Though “The Sunflower State” nickname technically belongs to Kansas, three of its northern neighbors outrank it in terms of actual sunflower production: South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota, in that order.
Like any other agricultural crop, sunflowers are harvested and processed into various products, from sunflower seed oil and nut butter to plain old edible sunflower seeds (not to mention all the flowers that end up in bouquets and other floral arrangements).
But in mid- to late summer, before the harvest begins, you can see fields upon fields of sunflowers in peak bloom across the aforementioned states. Many farms welcome visitors—though rules, activities, and costs vary widely—and the photogenic fields are generally considered a point of state pride and a popular tourist attraction.
North Dakota’s tourism board, for example, publishes an annual sunflower blooms guide to help out-of-towners optimize their viewing experience.
“Our golden fields attract visitors from all over who are captivated by the bright flowers and warm hospitality found across North Dakota each summer,” Sara Otte Coleman, tourism and marketing director for the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said in a press release.
While certain fields are already past peak bloom, some farms in North Dakota are anticipating that their sunflowers will stay perky well into September. As Smithsonian reports, this is partly because cold temperatures and rain caused a planting delay earlier this year.
North Dakota’s history of sunflower farming dates back to the 19th century, when the Homestead Act of 1862 motivated Ukrainian immigrants to settle in the region. Sunflowers were—and still are—a key Ukrainian crop, and the settlers continued the tradition on their new land. As Ukraine’s national flower, the sunflower has also recently become a popular symbol of support for the country in the wake of Russia’s invasion.
Feast your eyes on some more enchanting photos from North Dakota’s sunflower fields here.