Finding ways to solve conservation problems with plants is one of the hallmarks of the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service's Plant Materials Program. The East Texas Plant Materials Center (ETPMC) in Nacogdoches, Texas, was recently contacted by the city leadership of Nacogdoches with a problem. The median of Texas Highway 59 at the northern entrance of the city was planted with non-native bermudagrass and bahiagrass. While the grasses provided some erosion control, they required frequent mowing in the summer and, in the winter, were dormant and unsightly. The city was searching for a solution that would reduce mowing frequency, increase sustainability, and provide beautification of the city entryway.
City leaders met with ETPMC and Texas Native Seeds staff, developed a plan, and set a planting date. Dawn Stover, ETPMC Agronomist, and Tyler Wayland with Texas Native Seeds developed a seeding mix of native wildflowers, grasses, and legumes that would provide cover and color throughout the growing seasons for the benefit of pollinators. The mix included several USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program conservation plant releases, Texas Native Seeds plant releases, as well as commercially-produced wildflower species that are adapted to the climate and soils of East Texas. More information about the releases and species used in the planting can be found on the Texas NRCS news page: Blooming with pride | Natural Resources Conservation Service (usda.gov).
The planting was conducted in February 2023 by ETPMC and Texas Native Seeds staff, and it wasn't long before the area was bursting with color from the annual phlox used for rapid cover and color while the perennial grasses and wildflowers were established. The blooms created a stir on social media, drivers pulled over to take pictures, and local news covered the project.
The solution Nacogdoches city leadership found to their conservation problem provided much more than beautiful flowers. It allowed for outreach to the public about the importance of native plants and how they function to help and protect the environment and showcased their use in an urban setting. More plantings are planned for the beautification of Nacogdoches. For more information on this planting, please contact the East Texas Plant Materials Center.