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Mr. Smarty Plants - Prairie Paintbrush and Managing Roadsides

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Tuesday - April 26, 2005

From: Carls Corner, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Managing Roadsides
Title: Prairie Paintbrush and Managing Roadsides
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have been visiting a piece of land beside I-35 for quite a few years now.  It is home to tons of different plants, but it really has a fantastic show of Prairie Paintbrush - the multicolored ones, not just the Texas kind.  I have also found wild larskpur, golden and blue flax, bluebonnets, gallardia, and lots of other things.   My question is:  is there a way to make this a protected area, so that people can enjoy it but are warned not to pick or dig up plants?  I've thought about putting signs up myself, but I figured they'd just get removed by someone.  I feel like these plants are not planted by TXDOT because of the unusual variety, and I'd love to see it protected and even improved.   The location is one exit north of Carl's Corner in Hill County.  I think it's exit 877, but I'm not sure.  It's on the southbound side of I-35.  It's not very obvious from the highway, which is no doubt why it has done as well as it has.  But I have started seeing families there in the spring, and I worry about the area becoming ruined.  Again, since I think the plants are there naturally and not being re-seeded, it's not like the normal bluebonnet hills that people tromp through every year.  There is a well-used shoulder where semis and other travelers can park. 

ANSWER:

Assuming that this is the right-of-way for I 35, you should contact the Maintenance Division of the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) to learn who is the supervisior for the Vegetation Management Program in that area. Another possible contact is the Right-of-Way Division of TXDoT. Even if they didn't originally seed the area, it is obvious that TXDot is doing something right (e.g., waiting till seeds have set and fallen before mowing) to insure that the flowers reappear every year. Since they do seem to care for it, you would be doing them a service to let them know that people are parking there. They might be willing to put up signs discouraging parking and encouraging preserving the area, i. e., not picking, digging up or trampling plants.

There might be someone in the Hill County government (County Commissioners, for instance) who would be interested in seeing that the area is preserved. You also might contact the local coordinator for the Adopt-a-Highway program in that area to see if there is a group managing that part of I 35. If not, you might find a group in that area who would be interested in adopting the section of the highway that includes the site. Although there is not a law against picking bluebonnets or other wildflowers it is illegal to destroy rights-of-way or government property. Working with an Adopt-a-Highway group, or on your own, you might have signs made urging the protection of the area and noting the illegality of destroying government property (the wildflowers) on the right-or-way. You will need to have the signs and their location approved by TXDoT before installing them, of course.

If the land in question is not part of the Texas highway right-of-way, you would need to contact the owner of the property about measures to preserve it.

Finally, there is a 1-page PDF article, "Planting Wildflowers along Roadsides", from the Native Plant Library that you can download with information about planting and maintaining wildflowers along roadsides.
 

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