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Biltmore’s Sunflowers - More Than Just Pretty Faces

Posted on 06/10/2013 by Judy Ross

Summer visitors are always in awe of the acres of sunflowers by the road to Antler Hill Village—these beauties bloom from July through Labor Day.  Besides serving as a visual treat, the flowers provide gourmet meals for the diverse wildlife that lives on the estate.

“These flowers are great summer forage for deer and also an important source of food for mourning doves, song birds, and migrating birds,” said Curt Horn, Grounds Maintenance Supervisor.

Curt and his crew are responsible for our Wildlife Management Program. They make sure that the wildlife has food and places to nest. In fact, out of 300 acres of crop fields, some 136 acres are designated for wildlife feeding.

Each year Curt’s team develops a planting schedule, rotating crops to keep the soil from being depleted. This year they will plant 10 acres of sunflowers—staggered in May, June, and July for extended blooms; 25 acres of corn; 18 acres of soybeans; 16 acres of wheat; 14 acres of legumes; and two acres of millet.

Some of the wildlife plantings are easy to see, such as the planting on Amblers Trail that starts at the Lagoon and meanders up the hill toward Biltmore House. Corn, soybeans, clover, and prairie grass make excellent meals for the deer, rabbit, and turkeys commonly seen in these areas.

Native warm season grasses and wild flowers are planted for nesting habitats. One great place to see this is along Pony Road from the service road brick bridge towards the river.

Along the River Road by the Equestrian Center, five large fields feed wildlife such as deer, turkeys, squirrels, beavers, other small mammals, and dozens of bird species. Crops include radishes, canola, soybeans, corn, and sorghum.  Several smaller areas up the river are also planted with corn—equestrians frequently see wildlife dining on the corn!

“George Vanderbilt treasured Biltmore’s wildlife and worked hard to protect it. We are continuing that legacy by providing food and habitat as an integral part of keeping Biltmore’s 8,000 acres healthy,” said Curt.

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