Photo: Peter Bauer, AP

“Even though there had been a few previous attempts to promote roadside wildflowers, roadside vegetation ‘had never been seen by the department as a benefit,’ said state transportation landscape architect Jeff Caster.

Roadsides were seen ‘as a liability rather than an asset, something the department needs to perpetually control and keep from protruding into the road.

But over time, that attitude has changed and a new approach is taking shape, he said.

The recent study by George Harrison, an economist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, was arranged at the urging of the Florida Wildflower Foundation… 

Using formulas and estimates from studies elsewhere in the nation, Harrison concluded the 93,000 acres of state highway rights of way that are covered in plants are worth more than a half-billion dollars a year, in terms of runoff reduction, carbon storage and pollination…

‘It’s a little bit of choreography,’ he said. ‘You have to figure out the right time to mow and the frequency of mowing.’

Mowing has to wait until after wildflowers bloom and produce seeds, so the mowers can help distribute the wildflowers’ seeds, he said. But without mowing the rest of the year, the wildflowers would be shaded out by other plants.

With the study in hand, Roberts said the Wildflower Foundation hopes to work with counties and the department to lobby for management that will keep the roadside ecosystems more natural, she said, adding beauty and providing more habitat for bees and other important pollinators.”

— Dinah Voyles Pulver , Daytona Beach News-Journal