Finding Kansas Wildflowers

bee balm wild bergamot in Kansas

More than Sunflowers: Celebrating Kansas Wildflowers

It’s not called the sunflower state for nothing. While Kansas is home to many commercial sunflower farms, their wild cousins (everyone has one, right?) run amok along roadsides and in fields statewide. They’re so pretty that in most cases, we welcome the invasion each year. And it’s not just sunflowers — our prairies are awash with brilliant color much of the year.

To show our appreciation for these beautiful blooms, we’ve compiled a list of our favorites, complete with information about when and where to enjoy them.  

A Few of Our Favorites

They’re all beautiful, but here are some of the varieties we’re extra happy to see each year.

Common Sunflower

The official state flower of Kansas.

  • When it blooms: Late summer
  • Where you can find it: Statewide

Common Sunflower in Kansas

Compass Plant

The reigning Kansas Native Plant Society Wildflower of the Year!

  • When it blooms: Late summer
  • Where you can find it: Central and eastern Kansas

Compass plant in Kansas

Bee Balm, or Wild Bergamot

A pretty purple bloom that’s especially nice in bouquets and yes, a favorite of bees.

  • When it blooms: Summer
  • ​Where you can find it: Central and eastern Kansas

bee balm wild bergamot in Kansas
Prairie Coneflower and Grayhead Prairie Coneflower

A beaming sunflower relative with showy yellow petals.

  • When it blooms: Late spring, summer
  • ​Where you can find it: Statewide (eastern Kansas for the grayhead)

prairie coneflower in Kansas
Black-eyed Susan

Wonderful additions to garden beds, along with brown-eyed Susans.

  • When it blooms: Late spring to early fall
  • ​Where you can find it: Mostly eastern half of Kansas

Black-eyed Susan in Kansas
Woolly Verbena

Purple pollinator paradise!

  • When it blooms: Summer
  • ​Where you can find it: Statewide

Wooly Verbena in Kansas
Plains Coreopsis

Small and cute-as-a-button, with striking yellow and red petals.

  • When it blooms: Late spring, summer
  • ​Where you can find it: Statewide

False Indigo

Thick purple spikes with a short bloom window (don’t blink!).

  • When it blooms: May and June
  • ​Where you can find it: Statewide

False Indigo in Kansas
Butterfly Milkweed

A brilliant orange bee and butterfly magnet. (We also love purple milkweed and Sullivant milkweed. ALL THE MILKWEED!)

  • When it blooms: Summer
  • ​Where you can find it: Central, eastern Kansas

Butterfly Milkweed in Kansas
Shooting Star

“Out of this world” beauty, like little purple and yellow comets.

  • When it blooms: Spring
  • ​Where you can find it: Southeast corner of Kansas

Shooting Star Wildflower in Kansas
Where to Go Wildflower Watching

You’ll find them blooming in just about any untamed area, but you can really immerse yourself in a wide selection at several preserves and state parks. Here are a few good ones: 

Many locations offer electronic or printed guides to help you identify the varieties you’ll see there, or you can download one of several great smartphone apps that make identification as simple as snapping a photo. Try Picture ThisPlant Net or Plant Story.

Field guides are also helpful. We like Kansas Wildflowers and Weeds, by Michael John Haddock, and Kansas Prairie Wildflowers, by Clenton E. Owensby.

Important: Know your wildflower ethics and read the park rules before setting out. If you’re taking photos, don’t leave the trail unless permitted. And definitely don’t pick the flowers on public lands! Many are federally protected and picking is illegal.

Beware These Blooms

You surely know to avoid those leaves that grow in clusters of three throughout wooded areas, but there are “wildflowers” to steer clear of as well. One of these is poison hemlock. It looks just like dainty white Queen Anne’s lace, but handle it and you can wind up with nausea and blurred vision. It’s found throughout the state, except for the southwest corner.

Wild parsnip is another one to watch for. According to the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, “chemicals found in leaves, stems and flowers of wild parsnip can cause skin rashes, burns and blisters, especially in the presence of sunlight.”

Where to Learn More

If you want to become a wildflower whiz, the Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses and Kansas Native Plants websites make it easy by allowing you to browse local wildflowers by color and/or season. These resources, along with the treasure trove of information available from the Kansas Native Plant Society, will provide all the native plant knowledge you need!

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