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December 16, 2018   
October 04, 2006 

Replacing Turf With Wildflowers

Carpets of wildflowers and native grasses are sprouting along a growing number of Indiana’s highways under a state program that replaces roadside turf with colorful plants that reduce mowing costs while creating new wildlife habitat.

Indiana’s Roadside Heritage program, which began in 1999, had by early 2005 turned 429 acres along state highways into a summer kaleidoscope of perennials such as New England aster, butterfly milkweed, purple coneflower and lupine and grasses like big bluestem.

Since then, dozens of additional roadsides and median strips that once needed to be mowed three to four times each summer have been replaced with native plants that need virtually no maintenance, said Megan Kaderavek, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“This program isn’t intended just to beautify Indiana, although that’s part of it,” she said. “The more we can reduce the amount of grass and add wildflowers, the more we can reduce our mowing operations, so that’s a cost-savings for us.”

To date, the state’s two established seed farms have produced hundreds of pounds of seed that would have fetched about $341,000 if it had been sold commercially, Kaderavek said.

The program receives $350,000 in federal dollars each year – money the state plows into the farms and planting efforts, including spraying roadsides with herbicides to kill grass and then reseed those areas with the native plants.

“It’s not a static world out there. The species move around and as habitat is made available to them, they’ll use them,” he said.

High erosion areas are often targeted for the seedings because roadside grasses fare poorly in such areas and they are often dangerous for mowing crews to venture into, said Bill Fielding, landscape coordinator the Department of Transportation’s Crawfordsville district.

“I’m sold on this program. It reduces mowing, and it brings in small animals,” he said.

Back to News/Press Releases >> Source: The news Sentenial
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