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Florida’s official state wildflower is coreopsis, commonly called tickseed. Each May, it’s blooming in portions of Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Fla. I’ve seen photos of the golden flowers blanketing areas of the park but never experienced the blooms in person.
What I Saw Was Worth the O’Dark-thirty Alarm
I live about a 45-minute drive from Myakka River State Park. Knowing the early bird gets the worm. Or, the early photographer has glorious morning light, I woke up around 5 a.m., which is my typical workday alarm.
My plan was to arrive at 8 a.m. when the park opened. After hitting snooze a couple of (or few) times, I dragged myself out of bed. In the morning darkness, I fed my pets, walked my dog, showered, and hopped in the car. Well, hitting the snooze one too many times meant arriving at the park shy of 8:30 a.m., which was okay.
Captivated by a Sea of Yellow
Soon after I drove into the park and towards Upper Myakka Lake, I saw pops of yellow along the road. Once past Gator Bridge, both sides of the roadway were covered with fields of gorgeous golden coreopsis. It was simply stunning and the beauty was overwhelming.
I noticed a bank of photographers, those with very large, professional-looking lenses, pointing their cameras along the edge of the flowers and into the trees. In the shadows, I saw what I call my National Geographic moment. There stood two white-tailed deer does each with a spunky, speckled fawn.
I watched with delight with my bare eyes because I knew my photos would not turn out well. There was too much shade from the trees. Sometimes the fawns stayed close to their moms, then, they jumped through the fields together.
The deer slowly disappeared into the woods, so I went about photographing and recording the captivating tickseed. A young woman brought her two dogs and I watched as she recorded them in the sea of wildflowers. I was a bit envious I didn’t bring my dog because it was beautiful watching her. I’m sure she’ll always cherish those images.
The Patient Photographer Gets the Shot
As I finished up photographing the tickseed, I looked up and saw a doe and fawn in the sunshine. A few photographers stayed down the road while I waited to see what this duo would do. They walked through the flowers and groomed each other (or gave each other deer kisses). In what seemed like watching the real-life version of “Bambi,” the fawn sprinted away from its mother. It kicked up its hindlegs and frolicked through the wildflowers.
At one point, the fawn walked towards me and the closest it got was about 20 yards away. I should have snapped photos or recorded video on my phone. But I put them all down to enjoy the moment in its natural setting and not through a viewfinder. Plus, I was a little nervous if mamma viewed me as a threat and was ready to move out of the way if she charged me.
Was a small rabbit named Thumper hiding under the coreopsis? Maybe. It wouldn’t surprise me. This was a magical moment. Watching and hearing the reaction of the photographers, they were elated with what they saw, too.
A Magical Day in Myakka River State Park
Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s largest state parks with close to 58 sq. miles of wilderness and recreation. The park was dedicated in 1941 and opened to the public in 1942, making it one of the state’s oldest state parks.
Driving through the rest of the park, I soaked in the enthralling beauty of those yellow flowers. I watched as some plein air painters captured the scenery on their respective canvases. Overlooking an array of flowers, I noticed turkeys bobbing up and down as they navigated through the flowers.
My visit was short, only about three hours, because I had an afternoon appointment closer to home. I didn’t explore as much as I wanted so I purchased a Florida State Park Annual Pass for future visits. Since then, I’ve returned to the park after work to enjoy the golden sunlight. This wasn’t my first visit to Myakka River State Park – not so long ago, I hiked Deep Hole – and I know I’ll be back again.
Although I hoped to see a fawn, I only expected to see the flowers and they are worth the trip. Seeing the deer and turkeys was a magical bonus. Working and living in national parks taught me that Mother Nature goes at her own pace. As for the coreopsis bloom, I captured a lot of pretty photos and videos (see one below) but it’s really something you need to experience in person.
When should you visit Myakka River State Park to see the coreopsis bloom? Well, I recommend by the end of May and maybe the first week of June. After all, Mother Nature works on her own schedule.
Video: Fawn Frolics Through the Wildflowers in Myakka River State Park
I did capture moments of the doe and her fawn and the short video is on YouTube.
View More Photos on Flickr
Plan Your Visit
Myakka River State Park
13208 State Road 72
Sarasota, Fla. 34241
Tel: (941) 361-6511
Admission into Myakka River State Park is $6 per vehicle; $4 single occupant vehicle; $2 bicyclists, pedestrians; and there is no additional fee for a permit into Wilderness Preserve and Deep Hole. Permits must be returned to the ranger station.
The park is open 8 a.m. to sundown daily.
Wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, insect repellent, hat, camera, and sense of adventure.