By Tamie Yegge, Powder Valley Conservation Nature Center
You may recall that last December, a team of over 50 volunteers converged on the North and South sides of the 1-270/1-44 interchange to plant Missouri native grass and forb seed. The native seed was mixed with an annual rye grass which was meant to quickly sprout, grow and protect the soil from erosion while the native seedlings developed.
The goal of the project was to reduce the amount of fescue along the roadways, therefore, reducing the amount of mowing required by MoDOT crews, and also to re-establish a remnant of our past. Eventually we’ll see there a beautiful, flowing field of tall grasses interspersed with the subtle beauty of native wildflowers. This has worked very well, although you probably won’t notice anything happening on those sites for another year or so.
On May 1, 2000, a team went to the site to check its progress. Despite drought conditions, a number of desirable seedlings were found amongst the rye, including: Pale Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Blazing Star, Beard ongue, Compass Plant, Prairie Dock, Aster and Bee balm. Many of the grasses sown were popping up as well, including Big and Little Bluestem. Side Oats Gramma, Indian and Switch grass.
It was determined by the team that the rye was competing with the natives for sunlight, therefore, MoDOT was asked to include the sites in their regular mowing schedule for this year. Regular mowing won’t affect the native species, as they are putting energy into establishing a root system this year. In each successive year, we’ll be able to reduce mowing to once a year, and look forward to a whole season of a colorful, scenic drive through the interchange.