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Wildflowers + Pollinators = Winning Combination for Florida's Economy

Coreopsis leavenworthii by Jeff Norcini
Florida’s native wildflowers are recognized as an important component of Florida’s ecosystems, and just as significant, Florida's economy. They boost tourism with their beauty and provide habitat and nourishment for crop pollinators responsible for every third bite of food we eat. Many of our favorite Florida fruits and vegetables — oranges, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, avocados and more — rely on pollinators.  Even your morning coffee and favorite chocolate depend on pollinators.

But our wildflowers, and pollinators that rely on them, are in trouble. With about 900 people a day moving to Florida, an area about 50 percent larger than Tampa (133 square miles) is each year lost to development, which has eliminated life-sustaining habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Habitat loss has made the managing roadside rights-of-way for pollinators increasingly crucial for agricultural crop production. While the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) manages about 200,000 right-of-way acres along 12,116 miles of federal and state roads, only about half is vegetated, and only 3,000 acres hold planted and naturally occurring wildflowers.

We can create more desperately needed habitat by building a “pollinator pathway” of native flowers through reduced mowing, which increases food sources, host plants and nesting places vital to bees, butterflies and other insects.

Panhandle Wildflower Brochure Gets Update

The Florida Wildflower Foundation recently published an updated Panhandle Wildflowers brochure. The publication features photos of wildflowers common to the Panhandle, along with a map that includes 16 counties — from Escambia to Jefferson, the same area managed by FDOT District 3. This brochure, available at Florida Welcome Centers, has been a very popular with visitors and residents alike.

The map features the locations of FDOT and county Wildflower Areas that are actively being managed through modified mowing to conserve roadside vegetation. The Florida Wildflower Foundation hopes to update the map again in Fall 2018 when more Wildflower Areas have been identified. While most counties have roads featured on the map, routes are still needed in Escambia, Gadsden and Holmes County. 

We hope to hear from Master Gardeners, garden clubs, Florida Native Plant Society members and/or other conservation-minded folks who want to to get involved in putting roads on the map. 

Take Action: Get involved in saving roadside wildflowers in your county! Panhandle Wildflower Alliance liaison Liz Sparks is available to provide advice on getting started. Please contact her at 850-570-5950 or email liz.aparks57@gmail.com

Download the brochure from the Florida Wildflower Foundation site.

Paths of Sunshine Award

The FDOT District Three Midway Maintenance Unit recently received the Ella P. Wood Paths of Sunshine award sponsored by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. The award recognized the exemplary management of wildflowers on State Road 20 from Geddie Road to Fort Braden School. The application was submitted by Eleanor Dietrich on behalf of the Panhandle Wildflower Alliance and the Florida Native Plant Society Magnolia Chapter.
Left to right: Jeff Caster (FDOT), Eleanor Dietrich,
Dustie Moss (FDOT District 3 Wildflower Coordinator) and Liz Sparks (PWA Liaison)
In the spring of 2015, Leon County requested that the district set aside 9 miles of right-of-way on S.R. 20 west of Tallahassee as a Naturally Occurring Wildflower Area (NOWA). This stretch is contiguous with the Talquin State Forest and the Apalachicola National Forest through upland sand hill scrub. The primary species designated for conservation management was the Pineywoods milkweed (Asclepias humistrata), a critical larval food source for the Monarch butterfly during its early spring migration. Without this resource, Monarch populations would likely decline further. The NOWA designation resulting from the discovery and identification of the milkweed population on the rights-of-way is seen by many conservation experts as an important step in helping the Monarch populations rebound in the Big Bend Flyway. 

Take Action: Anyone can nominate a state road for a Paths of Sunshine Award with a one-page form. The deadline for the next round of awards is Oct 31, 2019.  Send nominations to Glenda Dawson at Ldawson3@tampabay.rr.com.

Introducing New Bay County PWA Leader

Mila Bentz is a recently retired industrial engineer, successful interior decorator, vice president of the Panama City Beach Garden Club, and dynamic volunteer in the community. She has agreed to become Bay County’s point person for the Wildflower Program, with the assistance of her husband, Ray. She will be joined by Master Gardner and Florida Native Plant Society volunteers to scout potential roadsides for wildflower conservation. We look forward to seeing Mila and volunteers help the Bay County Wildflower Program flourish.

Walton County Kicks Up Wildflower Program

At a June meeting of the Walton County Commission, Commissioner Cecilia Jones gained support to approve designating Wildflower Areas on selected state roads. A request was made to FDOT, and Bob Farley, District 3 Vegetation Specialist, has been working on a management plan and placing wildflower signs to delineate the areas.  The county road designations are a work in progress. 
 
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 Florida's 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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