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Welcome to the First PWA Newsletter

Hello Panhandle Wildflower Alliance members,

As your new liaison between the PWA and Department of Transportation District 3, I am excited about meeting many of you in the year ahead and working together to expand our wildflower program. In the liaison position, I work closely with Dustie Moss, District 3 Wildflower Coordinator, who is a very supportive and dynamic leader based in the District Headquarters in Chipley.

I will be scheduling meetings to introduce myself to the lead person and wildflower group in each county. And in counties that don't have an active group established yet, I will be seeking partners to create one. To better facilitate communications between the 16 PWA counties, I'm kicking off this first PWA newsletter.  I need your help with articles in future editions to make this a quarterly publication that is engaging and relevant to our mission of wildflower conservation. What's happening in your county to get Wildflower Areas designated along roadsides? Any tips for improving your own backyard as a pollinator habitat? Who would you like to recognize as a "Wildflower Hero"? Please submit a short blurb about someone you know who goes over the top to conserve wildflowers and add a photo if possible. 

The spring newsletter is planned for early April, and I hope to have updates from each county by the end of March. Please contact me at  liz.aparks57@gmail.com or call 850-570-5950. I appreciate your help!

Liz Sparks, Florida Wildflower Foundation PWA/FDOT Liaison 

Welcome 2018 With a Gift for Wildflowers

2017 was a tremendously busy and successful year, thanks to your activism and support. With the PWA, the Florida Wildflower Foundation worked closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to mold policy and procedures that protect and preserve wildflowers, and Wildflower Resolutions have been adopted by all but one Panhandle county. More official Wildflower Areas have been designated, and management plans are reducing mowing.

So much more planned for 2018! But your support is critical. The PWA is a program of the non-profit Florida Wildflower Foundation, and we need your help to keep this good work going. Will you give a gift that invests in the Panhandle's natural future? Click here to make a gift that protects wildflowers and wildlife.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland 

A few flakes of early January snow sent North Floridians into a tizzy as an unusual cold front dropped a sugary dusting in a few Panhandle counties. Normally our version of winter is enchanting as gentle daytime temperatures entice us to explore a landscape with splashes of fall color against the muted tones of nature at rest. And NO bugs! It's a perfect time to join friends or seek solitude while hiking on the many trails winding through public conservation lands in  the Panhandle. Grab a camera and stroll through crunchy leaves, watching for signs of spring quietly humming in the background. What will catch your attention first? Will it be bright splashes of Carolina jessamine as it vines through leafless canopy or violets or trilliums tentatively poking their heads through the forest floor? 

Explore hilly Torreya State Park or The Nature Conservancy's Garden of Eden trail near Bristol for some challenging terrain and myriad diverse plant species in this hotspot of biodiversity. Or enjoy a gentler pace on flat, coastal trails such as those featured at Tarklin Bayou Preserve State Park, home to four species of endangered pitcher plants and other rare and listed plant species.  Visit the Florida Wildflower Foundation website to see what's in boom and plan your exploration. Please share your discoveries on our Facebook page and the Foundation's Flickr site, or email photos to me for publishing in future newsletters at liz.aparks57@gmail.com.

News from FDOT District 3's Dustie Moss

After three years of putting together wildflower contracts and tweaking different specifications in each one, we have perfected the "pushbutton contract" to best fit our vegetation management needs in District Three. Basically, this type of contract allows the department to issue a work order that a contractor must start within five days — a very quick response!  With Bob Farley, District 3’s Vegetation Manager, overseeing the work, the department issued a total of 13 work orders from October to December to seed or re-seed wildflower sites throughout the 16-county district.  

One of the biggest battles that the FDOT faces from citizens and local governments are complaints about the weedy or overgrown appearance that Wildflower Areas can produce. As you know, vegetation competition is strong and wildflowers don’t always win. With the pushbutton contract in place, we can closely monitor Wildflower Areas and ask our contractor to quickly respond with methods for weed control within five days. 
 
Weed control methods include manual removal by hand, which comes with a price tag; herbicide application by strip or spot treatment; and herbicide application with a mower. Application with a mower occurs by numerous "wicks" being placed under the mower deck and is commonly referred to as a wicking application. With this method, the mower’s deck height is set so that the wicks, which are saturated in a selective herbicide, only touch the tops of non-desirable weeds. This enables the Department to control the “ugly weeds” and reduces the competition for the wildflowers. We are confident that we will be able to better control weeds in the Wildflower Areas and reduce public outcry from mowing them.
 
Snowplows in Florida? Oh yes, it’s true! When not busy recovering Interstate 10 and other roads from our recent "polar-vortex-snow-bomb-wintercane" event, these trucks are pressed into service clearing debris from roads post-hurricane. Well done, FDOT!!

Dustie Moss, FDOT District 3 Wildflower Coordinator

Winter Mowing

Winter or “dormant season” mowing of roadsides by FDOT District 3 is done primarily to suppress woody vegetation in non-forested areas of the right-of-way through “accent” mowing. The purpose of accent mowing is to “accentuate the natural appearance” of the roadway, according to the department's vegetation management guide. This is considered a task to improve safety for the motoring public by enhancing the perception of spatial variability of the corridor and improving the visual interest of roadside views, reducing driving monotony. 

Here in District 3, we have purposefully identified some woody species that tend to colonize into “thickets” and provide seasonal interest, like the spring flowering of Chickasaw plum or the fall color of Sassafras (pictured), and marked them for the mowers to avoid. Mowing of Winged sumac actually increases thickets by increasing and spreading the root suckers, giving a nice late spring showing of the bright red fall color. Sassafras is also particularly nice in fall. 

Dormant season mowing also benefits the natural appearance of the roadside by distributing seeds of native wildflowers and grasses and increasing populations of annual wildflowers. Populations of herbaceous perennial and biennial wildflowers also can be increased when mowing heights exceed 6 inches per department policy; the mower blades "overtop" the over-wintering basal leaves and improve a competitive advantage over taller grasses and annual weeds.

Bob Farley, FDOT District 3 Vegetation Management Specialist
 
The Florida Panhandle Wildflower Alliance is a project of the Florida Wildflower Foundation funded by the State Wildflower license plate. This informal network of regional wildflower enthusiasts advocates for conservation of wildflowers in the state’s Eastern Panhandle. 
Click to follow Florida's wildflowers on the web
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www.FlaWildflowers.org
Florida Wildflower Foundation  |  225 S. Swoope Ave., Suite 110  |  Maitland, FL 32751
407-622-1606  |  www.FlaWildflowers.org  |  info@FlaWildflowers.org

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Florida Wildflower Foundation · 225 S. Swoope Ave. · Suite 110 · Maitland, FL 32751 · USA

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