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Wildflowers Take Root at UL Lafayette

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Louisiana wildflowers will be popping up along roadsides soon thanks to a seed bank being created at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The $1.7 million project - a collaboration between UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, SLU and state Department of Transportation and Development, Louisiana Project Wildflower and First Lady Alice Foster - calls for the collection and propagation of wildflower seeds and ultimately the enhancement of the state’s welcome centers, highways and scenic by-ways.

Specifically, the seed bank would be located at the former university-owned creamery adjacent to the Ira Nelson Horticulture Center with partnering universities working on project activities for seed source identification, collection and processing. Mary Courville, director of Louisiana Project Wildflower, will lend her guidance to the project by helping with species identification, site selection, seed collection and any future developments of seed production. DOTD will facilitate implementation, monitoring and reporting.

“This is a wonderful project not only for UL Lafayette but for the whole state of Louisiana,” said Dr. Linda Vincent, dean of the College of Applied Life Sciences at UL Lafayette. “We are using our native wildflowers to enhance the already-beautiful place we live in.”

She noted plots of wildflowers would be located at the center and they would act as research plots. “In addition to being beautiful, these plots would be, in a sense, research plots that are generating seeds for native wildflower multiplications,” said Vincent.

Alice Foster, Louisiana’s first lady, has been extremely active not only in promoting, but also in the actual planting of wildflowers across the state. Her seven year passion, she feels, has reached a remarkable turning point. “As a result of this funding, the wildflower program can now be expanded to include invaluable research. Beautifying roadsides helps generate a sense of pride, positively impacts our economy and can be a deterrent to litter,” said Foster.

“ The federal funds used for the wildflower seedbank are earmarked for just this type of project - scenic enhancement of our transportation system,” added Dr. Kam Movassaghi, DOTD Secretary. “We are pleased to have been able to participate in a beautification project that will undoubtedly benefit all of Louisiana.”

Those benefits could come via tourism. “Wildflower plots attract a tremendous number of visitors,” said Vincent. For instance, in Iowa the University of Northern Iowa became the state seed bank. And although the center where it is located is 30 miles from the Interstate, it attracts about 100,000 visitors a year. In Missouri, a site there attracts nearly 70,000 visitors per year.

After the project is under way, Vincent said the university hopes to sell cut wildflowers and seeds with all funds generated put back into the project.