Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beauty Gone Wild There along the Side of the Road in North Florida and South Georgia, Wildflowers Are in Vibrant Bloom

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Beauty Gone Wild There along the Side of the Road in North Florida and South Georgia, Wildflowers Are in Vibrant Bloom

Article excerpt

The roadsides have gone wild and Jeff Norcini couldn't be more

delighted.

He just hopes he doesn't veer off the road as he drives by

looking at the ditches, roadsides and medians in what he

describes as an unusually vibrant wildflower season.

The native flowers are creating a wonderland in North Florida

and South Georgia with pink, purple, yellow and white blossoms.

They are extra colorful this season, said Norcini, who is an

associate professor of environmental horticulture for the

University of Florida.

He is noticing because he has a mission.

"I'm keeping track of this and they are phenomenal -- the

sunflowers, goldenrod, deer tongue, liatrus, sweet everlasting

and false foxglove," said Norcini.

He's focusing on the blackeyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, that

native plant grower David Chiappini of Melrose calls "showy, a

flower you can see going 70 miles an hour."

The Florida Department of Transportation, which has been buying

commercial wildflower seed from Texas and other states to

beautify roadsides, would rather plant native wildflower seeds,

especially the bright yellow daisy.

So Norcini is gathering seed from the black-eyed Susan to plant

in rows at UF's North Florida Research and Education Center in

Monticello, 20 miles east of Tallahassee.

"I'm trying to develop a wildflower seed source, trying to get

an industry started," Norcini said. By summer, he hopes to have

20 pounds of seed that will be increased with another planting

in Monticello.

"Then we'll hand it out to farmers to grow who would be willing

to sell the seed to the DOT," he said.

The DOT also wants Florida-native blanket flower and coreopsis,

he said. One of the reasons is that the Florida wildflowers

bloom much longer than wildflowers of the same species that come

from outside the state. …

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