Saving wildflowers where they take root

Roadsides give many native plant species what they need to thrive: sun and open spaces. With carefully timed mowing and care, roadsides can produce beauty and biodiversity while creating a sense of place unique to La Florida, land of flowers.

Sometimes, roadsides are the last refuge for rare plant populations under pressure. As land use changes in a plant’s natural neighborhood, they conditions it requires may disappear. A mowed roadside can mimic preferred conditions for some plants. Roadside ditches can replace a wetland for others.

The Florida Wildflower Foundation works statewide with partners and residents to increase the presence of native wildflowers – whether endangered or common – along our roadways.

The main reason that many species are endangered or threatened today is because people have changed the homes or habitats upon which these species depend.
– US Environmental Protection Agency from “How Does Extinction Happen?”

Pioneers in Protection

The most recent Florida DOT Wildflower Management Procedure includes planning mowing patterns and times to maximize dispersal and germination of existing stands of showy native wildflowers. Photo by Eleanor Dietrich
The most recent Florida DOT Wildflower Management Procedure includes planning mowing patterns and times to maximize dispersal and germination of existing stands of showy native wildflowers. Photo by Eleanor Dietrich

FDOT Wildflower Management Program

The Florida Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Management Program includes guidelines for nominating natural areas of wildflowers for special management to increase the abundance and visibility. The program laid the groundwork for reduced and carefully timed mowing to boost pollinator habitat while protecting the biodiversity needed to sustain healthy ecosystems and wildlife populations. 

Through the adoption of wildflower resolutions, counties and municipalities can nominate FDOT-maintained roadsides within their boundaries as Wildflower Areas. The district wildflower coordinator then will assess the nominations in terms of safety, opportunities to reduce mowing, and natural abundance of wildflowers. Once the district maintenance engineer approves the nomination, a management plan for the area is crafted and turned over to the district maintenance yard or the contractor maintaining the area. See a list of wildflower coordinators.

Getting the job done in St. Lucie County: Joanna Huffman (left), Ken Gioeli, Bill Benton (St. Lucie Florida Master Naturalist president), Marcia Kopp and Mary White (FMNP Vice President).
Getting the job done in St. Lucie County: Joanna Huffman (left), Ken Gioeli, Bill Benton (St. Lucie Florida Master Naturalist president), Marcia Kopp and Mary White (FMNP Vice President).

Wildflower Resolutions

In 2009, a model county resolution was developed by Florida Wildflower Foundation members Eleanor Dietrich and Jeff Caster. The resolution, which recognizes the historical, environmental and cultural significance of Florida wildflowers, is a pledge to conserve wildflowers through such management practices as reduced mowing.

Wakulla County enacted the first resolution, followed by Gadsden, Leon, Lake, Marion, Brevard and Volusia counties. Now, 33 counties and three municipalities have wildflower resolutions. Use the resolution map  to discover how wildflower enthusiasts have helped their cities and counties bloom. 

Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) Photo by Mary Keim
Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) Photo by Mary Keim

2015 Bee Act

The U.S. Highway Bee Act, sponsored by Alcee Hastings (D-FL), was adopted in December 2015. It calls for the conservation and planting of native habitat along highways that benefits wild and honey bees and butterflies, such as the iconic monarch.

Model resolution

WHEREAS, the natural beauty of native wildflowers in __________ County can be enjoyed by everyone; can attract guests, and benefit commerce, environmental health, and public well-being; and

WHEREAS, enjoyment of native wildflowers is an occasion for all County and community leaders to unite for the benefit of everyone; and

WHEREAS, many naturally beautiful species of native wildflowers, including Coreopsis, the state wildflower, as depicted upon the State Wildflower license tag, are already prominently displayed along __________ County’s state and county roadways; and

WHEREAS, increasing the visibility of native wildflowers in __________ County is consistent with the vision of the Comprehensive Plan, and goals of many individuals, businesses, and community-based organizations; and … read entire model resolution.

How to get started, step by step

  1. On the map, click on a green county’s name to see how the resolution was adopted there. Contact those who led the effort to learn more.
  2. Team with a resident or organization that has ties with a county commissioner who supports environmental issues. If possible, organize a group effort by asking for help from Florida Wildflower Foundation members and local FNPS chapters, as well as from Audubon and Sierra Club chapters; garden clubs; civic organizations, and homeowners associations. Ask them for letters of support.
  3. After getting a commissioner’s support, work with the county public works staff to get their backing. Ask their advice about the best way to proceed, including the resolution’s final wording, scheduling a presentation to the county or city commission, and securing the commission’s vote.
  4. Download the model county resolution and model PowerPoint presentation (4.4 MB). Modify the presentation with wildflower photos from your county. Contact  Jeff Caster (850-414-5267; 850-414-5267) for pointers on making the presentation.
  5. Work with the county public works department to identify county, state and federal roads with showy stands of wildflowers. Ask your county’s roadside maintenance supervisor and your county’s FDOT maintenance representatives (state, federal roads) for advice about altering mowing practices to allow wildflowers to flourish naturally. Agree on a management plan for each road that includes the mowing extent, width and frequently. Put this in writing from the county public works department and submit it to the appropriate FDOT maintenance representative.
  6. Develop a follow-up plan. The adoption of a county wildflower resolution is only the first step in conserving roadside wildflowers. Organize periodic followups with county staff and issue reports on efforts. Develop a plan that includes publicity (newspapers, blogs), distribution of photos and educational materials, and site monitoring.

Helpful resources

For more FDOT research click here, and use the search term “vegetation” for “habitat” or for “wildflower.”

Other resources

Search our Library for more resources.

Wildflowers on roadsides can be planted or occur naturally.