"In the early 1960s, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) received numerous telephone calls asking the name of a flower growing long SR19/US27, just south of Tallahassee. The Department's Roadside Development Office investigated the matter and found that when the roadway was being built, the contractor bought sod for the roadside from a nearby cattle farmer, which contained a flower seed. The farmer had planted crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) in his fields as a winter forage for the cattle and to enrich the pasture soil with nitrogen. With guidance from the farmer, the department purchased additional crimson clover seed and proceeded to plant the seeds along Florida's roadsides. By 1963, the Florida Department of Transportation initiated the Wildflower Program for the state's rights-of-way. Aesthetics, lower maintenance costs, and driver safety were the main reasons for the program.

At the same time, in north and central Florida, there was an emergence of an annual phlox along the roadsides, railroads, and large pastures. Whether the phlox is native to Florida is of considerable dispute. One story told is that the members of the Gainesville Garden Club placed seed, soil, and fertilizer in small gelatinous capsules and tossed the capsules out of their car windows as they traveled the area. Another tale gives credit to a railroad worker who claimed to have thrown the seed along the tracks on his many trips across the state. By what ever [sic] method, the phlox have been greatly admired and appreciated by all travelers through north and central Florida each March and April."

Excerpt from:
Florida Department of Transportation, Environmental Management Office. 1998. Wildflowers in Florida (4th ed.). Florida Department of Transportation, Tallahassee, FL.

Wildflower Program History Highlights

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