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Ga. crews plant bright wildflowers along I-20 to help environment

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:35 PM EDT
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THOMSON, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - You may have noticed wildflowers off Interstate 20 in Thomson.

The Georgia Department of Transportation planted them during the summer to bloom this fall. But these flowers aren’t just for looks; they also help the environment.

The flowers are a part of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Wildflower Program. These flowers are perennials, meaning they will come back each year. They serve as a pollinator site for bees, butterflies and other insects.

Pollinator plants and insects play a critical role in supporting our state’s environment and agriculture, and with the specific mix of wildflowers and native grass being planted, the gardens will also provide year-round interest and habitat for insects and small animals.

The wildflowers are near Exit 172 and you can see that the shift is somewhat abrupt between the normal grassy medians we are used to on the highway to a vast amount of wildflowers that extend down for about a mile. GDOT also has signs directing people not to pick the wildflowers, even though they are so beautiful.

Changes started back in 1965 with the passage of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, commonly referred to as Lady Bird’s Bill, which eradicated what first lady Lady Bird Johnson referred to as a “solid diet of billboards” and junkyards that often lined major highways. It also established vast acres of wildflowers along roads and byways throughout the country, which we continue to enjoy today.

Here in Georgia, Virginia Hand Callaway established the Wildflower Program in 1974. At the time, she was the chair of the Birds and Wildflowers Committee of the Garden Club of Georgia. Other members of the Garden Club of Georgia, including former first lady Rosalynn Carter, helped Callaway present her idea to the GDOT commissioner. The program was approved and shortly afterward, GDOT began maintaining the wildflowers along Georgia’s highways.

If you’d like to support the program, you can make direct donations to the GDOT Wildflower Program. Checks should be made payable to the GDOT Roadside Enhancement & Beautification fund.

If you’d like to visibly show support of the program, you can purchase a wildflower tag through Georgia’s Department of Revenue. Each tag costs $80 initially and $35 each year thereafter. Proceeds from tag purchases support enhancement projects that research the importance of planting native flora, trees, and shrubs.

For more information on the GDOT Wildflower Program, visit: http://www.dot.ga.gov/IS/Wildflower.

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