TAMPA — City Hall is looking to add splashes of color to its parks by sowing mixed wildflowers, with blooms expected this summer.
"A city feels about itself how it looks," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in announcing the project this week. So in February, parks employees planted:
• black-eyed Susan, flower tickseed and lanceleaf coreopsis at Gadsden Park, 6901 S MacDill Ave.
• partridge pea, mistflower and flower tickseed at Rowlett Park, 2501 River Hills Drive.
• black-eyed Susan, lanceleaf coreopsis, little blue stem and slender bushclover along a trail near the New Tampa overpass.
This fall, the city plans to sow mixes of wildflowers at Ben T. Davis Beach Park and Bobby Hicks Park, as well as along the Manhattan Ave. segment of the South Tampa Greenway.
In 2012, ahead of the Republican National Convention, the city launched a $660,000 program to beautify corridors into downtown, starting with Ashley Drive, which got ground plants in red, yellow and orange, plus flowering trees such as bottlebrushes.
That year, the city planted nearly 800 southern red cedar, Chickasaw plum, sabal palm and other trees, plus irrigation and lighting, on Bayshore Boulevard, near Union Station, at the N Orange Avenue-N Jefferson Street-Interstate 275 interchange, and on Laurel Street, Franklin Street and the Nick Nuccio Parkway.
Buckhorn isn't alone in wanting to see pops of color on public property. Last year, Hillsborough County created its own program to plant wildflowers along county roads.
"It's moving along, and they are working on the sites," said County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, who suggested the idea.
Last month, the county planted beach sunflower and blanketflower along Lithia Pinecrest Road from Bryant Road to Lithia Estates Drive, and a variety of wildflowers along County Road 39 from Tipton Road to Old Hopewell Road. Those flowers are likely just sprouting.
The county's program plants a plot of about 600 to 1,000 square feet about 15 feet from the road.
In July, the county plans to plant blanketflower and black-eyed Susans on Fletcher Avenue from Telecom Drive to Lettuce Lake Parkway, and a variety mix on Madison Avenue from 74th to 78th streets near Progress Village.
As pretty as the flowers are, Higginbotham said the benefits are not just aesthetic.
A recent study done for the Florida Department of Transportation estimates that roadside vegetation along state highways takes in carbon, prevents runoff, supports bees and other creatures that pollinate crops, and boosts resistance to invasive species.
In all, these benefits have a value of nearly half a billion dollars, according to the study done by the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, but that value could nearly triple if more wildflowers are incorporated into roadside landscapes.
Among other things, the study concluded that the $33.5 million that the DOT spent in 2012 on vegetation management is more than offset by the value provided by plants' sequestration of carbon, a function that could generate revenue for the state through the sale of carbon credits.