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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - November 02, 2004

From: williamsburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Turf
Title: Value of planting wildflowers versus maintaining turf
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm trying to determine the cost/value of planting wildflowers and whether it is less costly than maintaining turf. Do you have any research on this topic?

ANSWER:

The Wildflower Center has not done research on this subject, but I was able to find a study reported by a group in Illinois called the Openlands Project. According to its web page, the "Openlands Project, founded in 1963, is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing public open space in northeastern Illinois." The study (results of which are available as a downloadable PDF file on their web page) was undertaken by Applied Ecological Service of Brodhead, Wisconsin and estimates that maintaining prairie or wetlands costs only $3000 per acre versus $20,000 per acre for non-native turf grasses over a 20 year period.
For another estimate, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency publishes "A Source Book on Natural Landscaping for Public Officials" on line that outlines the economic benefits of using natural vegetation.
 

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