Published: May 23, 2008
Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, which operates the state's pay-to-drive roads, deserves applause for landscaping that makes motoring a pleasure along the Suncoast Parkway in Pasco and Hernando counties.
Several months ago, workers planted 12½ acres of wildflower seeds along the 42-mile toll road that runs from northwest Hillsborough to the Hernando-Citrus line. Since then, the medians have morphed into fields of flowers that give new meaning to the road's designation as a Florida Scenic Highway.
The project cost $50,000 for supplies and labor, a one-time expense because the flowers are perennials. It's even possible the wildflowers could save money by reducing the need to mow the medians.
Appropriately, the patches include the Coreopsis, the state's official wildflower, the image of which also adorns the state's wildflower specialty license tag.
One motorist from Bradenton was so moved by a patch near Spring Hill that she wrote the Turnpike Enterprise to thank them. She said she "almost cried" because the battery in her digital camera died before she could capture the image. "I may have to drive one hundred miles ... and go back!" Catherine McCaskill wrote.
Her excitement isn't an exaggeration. Florida's wildflowers are a beautiful addition to any drive. Other governments - perhaps in partnership with neighborhood associations or civic clubs - should make similar efforts to add color along roadways, including Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.
Colorful plants thrive in Florida, yet far too often public landscaping is limited to various shades of green.
Florida is famous for its flora. Even its name comes from the Spanish Pascua florida, which means "feast of the flowers."
On the Suncoast Parkway, the turnpike authority has brought the state's name to life.