The planting of wildflower meadows is a beautification feature along a section of Interstate 70 that is under reconstruction in Washington County.
Golden black-eyed Susans have already begun to flower as the state Department of Transportation widens a 5 ½-mile stretch of I-70 in South Strabane and Somerset townships.
“In addition to being beautiful additions to highway hillsides, stretches of native plants can be a stunning boost to the local environment, said PennDOT District Executive Joe Szczur.
PennDOT chose to plant flowers along this section of I-70 because construction resulted in the creation of steep slopes alongside the highway, Szczur said.
“When used, native plants slow down, absorb and clean water that runs off hillsides and highways and reduces soil erosion,” he said.
PennDOT launched in 2016 the $117.8-million project that also is designed to make the highway safer between the Route 136 and and Route 519 interchanges, department spokeswoman Valerie Petersen said.
“It’s our mega project,” she said.
Nearly 34 acres of land have been planted with a mix of perennial wildflowers that also include purple coneflowers, ox eye sunflowers, partridge peas, lanceleaf coreopsis, wild bergamot, tall white beardtongue and smooth blue asters, as well as native grasses.
The native grass and flowering plant species tolerate poor soils typically found on steep slopes in the eastern United States. The mix also provides food and cover for wildlife, reduces soil erosion and protects water quality, PennDOT said.
The flowers will create a “scenic byway” and have the potential to draw tourists, Szczur said.
He said they should return each growing season and also create “pollination habitats adjacent to farms, fields and orchards.”