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Home arrow The Daily Dirt arrow Wednesday What's New: Going Native on the Highway
Wednesday What's New: Going Native on the Highway Print E-mail
Written by Heleigh Bostwick    Wednesday, 10 August 2016
Native wildflowers along the highway

Propelled by cost savings as well as "native plant pushers", highway departments around the country are deciding to get rid of mowers and replace them with a maintenance-free alternative: Wildflower plantings in medians and rights of ways that don't require mowing. And, with the help of horticulturist advisors, they are starting to do just that.

Getting rid of mowers saves money and is good for the environment, and why shouldn't highway rights of ways look like the native habitats they once were argue advocates? The flip side is that a recent poll in Delaware revealed that sometimes the public prefers neatness and order instead of the "natural look", which at times can look, well, weedy, especially in medians.

It probably depends on what native plants you're using. Grasses may not be as appealing as wildflowers. For example, some highway plantings like the switchgrass that PennDOT planted near Bedford, Pa., on U.S. 30, left the general impression of a botched hair transplant. Jon Johnson, a research support associate with the Roadside Vegetation Management Project of the Pennsylvania State University, worries that during droughts, switchgrass is highly flammable, and a tossed cigarette butt could cause a road closure.

There's also the small problem of many wildflowers being non-native, or even invasive, poppies and ox-eye daisies, for instance, but at least it's a step in the right direction.