It’s getting to be that time of year again – when the Marl Bed Flats part of the Lake Jesup Conservation Area along HW 417 north of Lake Jesup usually fills up with wild swamp sunflowers. It’s a late September / early October event and lasts for a couple of weeks. Lynn and I drove by yesterday to scout the area.
Swamp Sunflowers (from 2012)
The good news is that we already saw a few sunflowers blooming. The bad news is that we also saw a lot of standing water, especially near the lake. Flooding or standing water in the flower fields usually means fewer flowers.
“The Lake Jesup Wilderness Area is currently closed due to high water levels …”
It seems we’ll have to wait until next year to photograph these flowers. Sorry about that.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Stay safe! Take care of yourselves, your friends, and your families! And if you can, make some photos – although probably not Lake Jesup sunflower photos this year.
I hiked out into the Marl Bed Flats part of the Lake Jesup Conservation Area yesterday morning (10/4/19) to visit the swamp sunflower fields that grow wild along HW 417 north of Lake Jesup for a few weeks this time of year.
Swamp Sunflower panorama
I left a little late because I don’t really like to go out there in the dark. I’ve never had any issues though, so just be careful if you do go before or after it’s light (official hours are “Dawn to Dusk”). There were two cars already there when I arrived and the gate into the larger parking area was closed. Parking could be tight at the end of the road – hopefully there will be plenty of room if you visit. I met one of the other photographers on my way in.
We haven’t had much rain recently, so both the red and yellow trails are dry and clear until you get out to the flowers. The flowers are in great shape although they didn’t seem as dense as I’ve seen them in other years – they may still be filling in. The ground in the fields is damp in spots but not very muddy in the areas I went through. I didn’t have any problems with bugs but I used insect spray before hand.
Right now is a great time for a visit and I think the flowers will last for at least another week or so. You’ll get a little exercise and you’ll witness a wonderful Florida nature spectacle! Take water, bug spray, etc. and watch out for snakes and other wild animals. It is a wilderness area!
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
I’ve been photographing the swamp sunflowers in the Marlbed Flats / Lake Jesup Conservation area since at least 2006. Last year, the fields by HW 417 next to Lake Jesup were flooded and the Swamp Sunflower season was disappointing. But I’ve driven by there a couple of times in the last week or so and it looks like we’ll have a a lot of flowers this year. Blooms are already visible from the road.
Lake Jesup Wildernes Area – Swamp Sunflowers. This is a fisheye photo from 2012. I think I’ll take that lens out there with me again.
It might be a bit early for a visit right now. I’m guessing they’ll peak around the first or second week of October. If you do go, be careful. Take water, bug spray, etc. and watch out for snakes and other wild animals. It is a wilderness area!
The flowers are just about in peak bloom. If you want to hike out there, you’d better make plans quickly. The blooms only last a couple of weeks, so by next weekend, they’ll be fading.
The flowers are beautiful, but the bugs are swarming. I didn’t make any photos of the insects, but I did bring home souvenir mosquito bites. Wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt and use insect spray too. It’s also wet. I didn’t get far from the forest edge – but the water was already several inches deep. Waterproof boots are a great idea.
Lake Jesup Sunflowers at Marl Bed Flats
There are other things to see out there too. It’s a good local birding spot with at least two Bald Eagle nests reported.
When you go, please be careful. Don’t stop on the side of 417 – it’s dangerous! It’s a bit of a hike from the parking area out to the flowers. And it’s still hot – wear a hat and bring water with you.
The Lake Jesup Wilderness area really is wild – I’ve seen bobcats and worried about wild hogs. I haven’t seen any snakes, but I’ll bet they’re around. And Lake Jesup has one of the densest populations of alligators in Florida. So enjoy, but be careful!
You can browse some of my photos of the area in this set on Flickr. I also have more info on the area collected in these older articles:
I’ve photographed the wildflowers (swamp sunflowers) that bloom near Lake Jesup at this time of year since about 2006. I’ve never seen as many people out there as I did tonight. When I drove by on 417, there were 8 or 10 cars along the shoulder and people with cameras and tripods were clambering down into the flowers to get photos. When I arrived at the Lake Jesup Conservation Area just before sunset, the gate was closed and the two parking spaces outside the gate were already taken – so I had to park on the road. On my walk in, I met up with two people with cameras and on my way out another person stopped me to ask what I’d seen. On most previous trips, I haven’t seen anyone. I guess the word has gotten around.
Lake Jesup Conservation Area – Fisheye fun with the Swamp Sunflowers.
The flowers are at their peak. If you want to see or photograph them, you should go in the next few days.
Lake Jesup Conservation Area Wildflowers
Check out these links for info and please be careful. Stopping along 417 could be dangerous.
If you live in the Central Florida area and want to photograph an endless field of flowers, get ready to head over to the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area where Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) bloom from horizon to horizon during the last week in September and the first week of October.
Kevin M. in the flowers at the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area
I drove by on highway 417 this afternoon to see what’s going on, and there are already a few flowers out. My guess is that they’ll start peaking next weekend. Check out these links for info and maybe I’ll see you out there!
We may not get much Autumn color on our trees in Central Florida, but we do have one wonderful sign that fall is here – the sudden appearance of huge fields of Swamp Sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius, also called Narrow Leaf Sunflowers) covering the Marl Bed Flats in the Lake Jesup Conservation Area.
If you haven’t driven over Lake Jesup on the 417 toll road to see this year’s flower extravaganza on the north shore, now’s the time . They started blooming last weekend and the peak will probably last through this coming weekend. You can see my earlier posts for more info:
Last year during wildflower season, I hesitated to venture out into the Lake Jesup Wilderness Area in the dark. I’ve seen several types of animals and birds out there and never any snakes, but it sure does seem like prime snake country to me. And I don’t relish stepping on something dangerous in the tall growth and dim light. This year, I was a little braver (and very careful) and got out into the wildflower fields just as the sun came up.
1. I updated the blog’s table of contents again. If you haven’t looked at it, please do. In the TOC, I list the places I’ve blogged about along with links to the blog entry and the image gallery. It also has a collection of links to other resources on the web where you can find photo-op info. If you’re doing research on photogenic locations in Central Florida (and some other places too) this is a good start.
2. The Lake Jesup wildflower season is almost here. This photo-op is seasonal and usually starts in late September and is over by early October. If you want to photograph it, get ready. You can find info in two of my blog posts:
I’ve posted once before about wildflowers on the north-west shore of Lake Jesup. They bloom this time of year and I’ve photographed them since 2006, mostly from the side of the road.
October 10, 2006: Lake Jesup Flowers and Sunrise. 4 shot panorama, assembled in Photoshop; Nikon Coolpix P1, ISO 50, 126mm eq. focal length, f/5.2 at 1/30 sec.
In 2008, the area was completely under water and there were no blooms.
August 31, 2008: Lake Jesup flood waters from tropical storm Fay; Nikon D80, ISO 100, Nikon 18-70 lens at 18mm, f/16, three exposures combined with Photomatix
All year, I really hoped that the flooding hadn’t killed the flowers permanently. Once the water receded, I did a little exploring and found a park and a path out into the blooms through the Lake Jesup Conservation Area. About two weeks ago, I revisited the park and made these photos. As you can see, the blooms came back from the flooding. If anything, there are more than ever. If you are into flower photography, you have to ask yourself why you’ve never explored this wonderful place in late September. Get ready for next year!
September 28, 2009: Lake Jesup flowers and moon; Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 lens at 62mm, f/16 at 1/50 sec
Here’s a close in photo of one of the blooms. There are so many different types of wildflowers, that Identifying them isn’t easy (for me anyway). These are in the Aster family and resemble Black Eyed Susans, but are taller than the 14 – 36 inches my book says Black Eyed Susans should be. If you recognize them and can supply a positive ID, please let me know in the comments.
1/24/2010 update – These are most likely Narrowleaf Sunflowers, also called “Swamp Sunflowers”.
September 28, 2009: Lake Jesup flower closeup; Nikon D700, ISO 200, Nikon 24-70 lens at 70mm, f/4 at 1/500 sec
This web page has directions on how to get to the Marl Bed Flats part of the conservation area, where I made these photos. It’s a short hike over flat ground from the parking area to where the flowers are.
The plants are fairly tall and the blooms range from a few feet off the ground to as high as 6 feet. A tall tripod will be helpful to get your camera above the vegetation. Bring a wide-angle lens to take in the incredible vista of so many flowers in one place. You might want to carry your macro lens too.
Get there early for calm winds. I was a little leery of walking out there in the dark, so I passed on sunrise shots this year.
If you plan to do this, you should scout the area and the time-line before hand. The blooms last a couple of weeks, but they are definitely better in the middle of the period than at either end.