By MIKE CORN
You might call Mike Haddock a wildflower enthusiast.
If he's not, then no one is. After all, he's the author of the hugely popular -- at least among wildflower enthusiasts -- Kansas Wildflowers website.
And, given the difficulty that he and others who encouraged him have in taking his website into the field, he's also the author of "Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas."
It is the print-version bible of Kansas wildflower identification.
His love affair with wildflowers goes way back, to the days when his father would talk to him about the plants and their history.
Haddock's website got its start in 1996. As an assistant dean for research in the Kansas State Universities library system, he's got the ability to enhance the site on the job.
Instead, he does most of his searching for flowers, grasses and trees on his own time, and generally updates the site from home.
It is, after all, a labor of love.
Haddock considers himself fortunate to have the Konza Prairie, one of the last unbroken parcels of the Flint Hills, not far from Manhattan.
There, he's found and photographed plenty of the wildflowers that grace the pages of his webpage or his book.
"I do try to get to other parts of the state some every year," he said.
Haddock is especially fond of the Rocktown Hiking Trail on the north side of Wilson Lake.
A 3-mile loop trail, it is located on the north side of the lake at the western end of Lucas Park.
"The soil is different," Haddock said of the trail. "It's so sandy. There are different plants and flowers that we don't see in the Flint Hills."
He's also a frequent visitor to the Monument Rocks area and Scott State Lake, both of which offer public access and the opportunity to see plenty of wildflowers.
It's been something of a banner year for wildflowers, he said, because of the readily available moisture.
"It's been a real good year," he said. "A better spring than in normal years."
Spring and fall are the best times to go in search of colorful wildflowers, although there will be flowers blooming throughout the summer.
The key to good hunting for wildflowers is to stop and look.
"You have to get out and walk," he said, adding that driving down the highway simply doesn't work. "Get out someplace where you can walk around."
The peak time to see wildflowers is now.
Generally, he said, more flowers are out from May through June, and then again in September.
"You don't see quite as many in July or August," Haddock said.
Currently, Haddock's website contains descriptions and photographs -- virtually all of them his own -- of 645 species of flowers, grasses and trees.
Considering there's about 2,100 known plants in Kansas, he's still got plenty left to do.
Still, he's got about 100 plants left over from last year that he's still working on.
And he's hoping to get back out in the field, given the quality of the flowers.
"This is a really good time," he said. "Throughout most of the state."
* Haddocks' website can be found at www.kswild flower.org