Operation Wildflower

In 1973, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) established 'Operation Wildflower' for interstate highways nationwide. Supported by Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson, this was the beginning of a renewed interest in native American wildflowers across the nation. Florida's own Wildflower Program was well established by the time the federal program began. Since the FDOT already had an ongoing Wildflower Program, the requirements of Operation Wildflower were already met by the State of Florida. The federal program provided for reimbursement to participating states for labor costs in the seeding or planting of wildflowers. These seeds or plants were to be paid for by a member of the National Council of State Garden Clubs, Incorporated.

The Florida Department of Transportation had adopted guidelines which tended to defeat both state and federal programs. Seed was only to be planted in areas outside the normal mowing limits and in areas where the existing turf was not in good condition. The department did not want areas of established turf to be disturbed or have erosion occur due to the planting of wildflowers. Broadcasting the seed onto areas of well established, highly competitive weeds and grasses negated any chance for the survival of wildflowers. From 1973 through 1980, many pounds of donated seed were broadcast along the roadsides with minimal success. Knowing the chances of success and the limited amount of labor involved, the department did not request federal reimbursement for labor costs.

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

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