Operation Wildflowers FAQ's
Q. What are wildflowers?
A. Wildflowers are flowering plants, native to a specific geographic area or habitat and capable of growing in unimproved habitats without the assistance of humans, normally assumed to have attractive, showy flowers. Wildflowers can include naturalized species that coexist with other plants in the same habitat but are not aggressively competitive or invasive. Once established, native plants can save time and money because they require less maintenance. They also add diverse color, beauty and variety to the landscape.
Q. What varieties grow in West Virginia?
A. In West Virginia a combination of native and naturalized annuals are planted. This mixture currently includes bright red Corn Poppy, blue Bachelor's Button, yellow Coreopsis, pink Wild Cosmos and orange Sulphur Cosmos.
Q. How are wildflowers planted?
A. Donated areas are planted and maintained by the Division of Highways. Three planting methods are currently in use. In each method, sites are mowed close to the ground and then sprayed with a nonselective herbicide. The first method involves tilling prior to planting with a cyclone spreader. The second method uses a seed drill on untilled soil to cut a groove, drop seed into it and then tamp it down. The third method is hydro-seeding, which sprays seed and a paper mulch directly on the untilled surface. Geological location and the specific needs of each planting site determine the planting method.
Q. When are wildflowers planted?
A. Wildflower beds are generally planted in the fall after the first heavy frost. The germination rate is more optimal if seeds are exposed to the repeated freezing and thawing of winter and early spring. This method copies nature. If left undisturbed, flowers in a natural setting will dry on the stem and drop to the ground in autumn, lie on the ground during the winter months and then germinate when the spring rains and warmer temperature appear. Donations received prior to August 1 will be planted the same year. Those received after that date will be planted the following fall.
Q. How are wildflower-planting sites selected?
A. All Operation Wildflower cultivated areas must be planted on Division of Highways rights-of-way. A site is selected by the donor and then inspected by Division of Highways personnel who approve the site or suggest an alternate location. Donated wildflower beds will be planted at a location acceptable to the donor, however, the Division of Highways has final approval on all planting sites. An ideal site is at least 20 feet back from the road's edge and is flat or only gently sloped. There must be a clearance of at least six feet between the pavement edge and the beginning of the flowerbed. Areas without existing vegetation are not likely to support wildflowers, which generally grow well in sandy, moderately dry soil and do poorly in wet areas. Flowers that are situated so that drivers look down on them present a better view. Plantings that require drivers to look up appear to be mainly stems and leaves hide the showy blooms on top.
Q. Who pays for roadside plantings?
A. The Division of Highways absorbs the majority of the cost incurred for Operation Wildflowers, however, private donations contribute considerably to the program and are greatly appreciated.
Q. Who can donate a wildflower bed?
A. Individuals, families, businesses, garden clubs, churches, civic organizations, etc. are invited to donate to Operation Wildflowers. Many sites are donated in memory of a loved one by native West Virginians who now live in other states. One local man gave his wife an acre of wildflowers as a birthday gift.
Q. What period of time does a donation cover?
A. Donations for acres and half-acres cover a period of three years during which time the Division of Highways will plant annuals each Fall and maintain the area. At the end of this time the donor will be offered the opportunity to make a donation for the next three years or releasing the area.
Q. How are donated sites identified?
A. An attractive 30” X 30” brown, white and yellow sign displaying the name of the contributor or the person, business or group of their choice is erected at each donated area of one-half acre or more. Many contributors opt for a sign that reads “In Memory of...” or in Honor of ...” a loved one or cherished person.