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The Raleigh sunflowers are gone for this year. But here’s where they’ll return in 2019.

The sunflowers at Dix Park, long since wilted, are now officially gone.

The five acres of flowers were harvested by the city of Raleigh to turn into biodiesel Thursday.

The sunflowers exploded in popularity this year and have become a sort of annual pilgrimage for people looking to take the perfect selfie.

But have no fear flower fans, they’ll be back next year. Here’s what we know about next year’s crop.

Will the sunflowers be back at Dix Park?

Yes, and they should be bigger and better than this year.

The five acres next to the Hunt Drive soccer fields drew thousands and offered people a chance to wade through the flowers in search of the perfect photo.

It was the first time the flowers appeared in Dix Park after being moved from the Neuse River Greenway Trail, near Mile Marker 23. To celebrate the move, Raleigh held SunFest this summer, which featured music, food, vendors and crafts during the peak of the flowers blooming in July.

The event was expected to bring in about 5,000, but attendance spiked to more than 15,000 during the one-day festival.

In the coming months the city will be treating the soil and area at Dix Park to help grow more and larger flowers next year, though the actual acreage won’t change.

Are the sunflowers coming back to the Neuse River Greenway?

In short, yes.

Sunflowers were visible surrounding the 1,100 acres of the Neuse River Resource Recovery Facility, formerly the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant, for a number of years. But last year’s display of sunflowers caused a number of headaches for the city including increased traffic, trespassing onto the wasterwater treatment plant’s property, flying drones over the field and concern about people being injured or encountering snakes.

The city decided to plant soybeans where the sunflowers were usually seen, causing an uproar from people who had enjoyed the sunflower view along the greenway

The city has decided to bring the sunflowers back along the Neuse River trail in at least two different spots next year, though the exact locations haven’t been finalized yet. But it will be in a place where people can access the flowers.

And the fields along the greenway and at Dix Park should bloom on a staggered schedule, offering people a longer period of time to see the flowers in their peak.

Why does the city grow the sunflowers?

The beauty of the flowers are a draw and help raise awareness, but the sunflowers actually fuel the city’s farming efforts, too.

The sunflowers are harvested and used to turn into biodiesel fuel that is used on the farming equipment that maintains the city-owned fields. The city takes the byproducts of cleaning and treating wastewater, called biosolids, and spreads it out on the fields.

The flowers harvested at the Dix Park site are pretty small. While some may be turned into biofuel, the smaller seeds will be harvested for bird seed and sold by the city.

Anna Johnson; 919-829-4807; @anna_m_johnson

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