Wildflowers along the roads are for our viewing pleasure . . . not for picking

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 05:16 AM

When members of the North Carolina Department of Transportation joined Gov. Pat McCory in handing out the annual wildflower awards last week, Rutherford County roadways weren't among the winners. I am disappointed.

Rutherford is in DOT's Division 13 and for our division — Buncombe, Burke, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Rutherford and Yancey counties — there was a second place award. 

The award went to Buncombe County at U.S. 19/23 at Exit 24 Woodfin.

Awards were sponsored by The Garden Club of North Carolina and are given to the best-looking flower beds in each region.

I'm not sure who judges the beds or who chooses the wildflowers that are planted along Rutherford County roads, but maybe we can have a say so in what is planted or help with keeping them beautiful.

I didn't know the wildflower beds are judged, which has piqued my interest even more in the gorgeous flowers planted along the roads.

The hundreds of wildflower beds along the roadsides are installed and maintained by the Roadside Environmental personnel in each of the 14 highway divisions.

From A to Z — the Aaron's Rod to Yellow Windstem — the wildflower gardens along our state's roads was the brainchild of former North Carolina First Lady Dottie Martin who got the idea from the Texas Wildflower Program.Former First Lady Ladybird Johnson's legacy is the beautification of the highways and the planting of flowers.

My personal favorites are the Poppies and Cosmos. But I also like the varieties of sunflowers, Queen Anne's lace, the Black-eyed Susan. I love the colors. The blues, reds, yellows, pinks, purples.

 I never really thought about Rabbit Tobacco being a wildflower, but it is. I just thought it was a wad to chew and spit out when you're a kid. 

It seems like a long time ago now when I was driving my mama home from the North Carolina Baptist Hospital where she had been a patient for a week.

So anxious to get her home, she was feeling pretty well on the gorgeous summer day. As we kept passing the fields of bright red poppies, she told me to stop so she could pick some flowers.

In my respectful daughter voice I told her that wasn't a good idea and I wasn't going to do that. I even went so far to tell her it was against the law and I didn't want us to get a ticket.

In her motherly pleading voice, I finally broke down and stopped. After all, she had been in the hospital a week. I was glad she felt like walking.

Up the hill she trekked to get some poppies.

I begged her not to pick the flowers and then I'd holler, "Hurry. Hurry."

"I'm only getting a few seeds," she called back.

 Sure enough in a moment's time, we were settled back into the car. In her hand she had a few seeds. 

You should have seen her poppies and Cosmos she planted along  Grayson Bostic Road where she and Daddy lived. With her green thumb, the Poppies and the colorful Cosmos, would have won any governor's award.

Today's DOT asks motorists, just like I asked my mama, not to stop and pick the wildflowers. It is not safe, plus we need to leave them for all to enjoy.

I agree with DOT,and to this very day when I pass a field of red poppies along I-40, I always remember the day we stopped and got a few seeds.

I'm not sure what it will take for the Rutherford County's wildflower gardens to get the award, but I'm up for finding out.

And just in case you're interested here's the list of 

Best Overall Division Wildflower Program from the state's website:First Place – Division 4, which includes Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Nash, Wayne and Wilson counties; Second Place – Division 7, which includes Alamance, Caswell, Guilford, Orange and Rockingham counties; Honorable Mention – Division 11, which includes Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.

There is also a photo gallery of the winning flower beds on the website.

Funding comes from the sale of personalized license plates. 

I for one am glad the season of year is upon us and we'll soon enjoy these flowers. 

If you're going to look at the flowers long, pull off the road. But don't pick'em.

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View a photo gallery of the award-winning flower beds.

 www.ncdot.gov/doh/operations/dp_chief_eng/roadside/wildflowerbook/wildflower/12b.html