Speed limit signs that reach 80 mph aren’t the only exhilarants that pop up on the edge of Utah’s highways.
Intermittent bursts of sunflowers get the heart jumping, too. As I watched them flash by on a trip in mid-August, I thought I might be seeing a version of North Carolina’s program 30 years ago to beautify highways by sowing wildflowers.
But roadside attraction takes a back seat to utility in Utah. “They are not a design feature,” said Dan Bolin, a landscape architect with the state transportation department. He told me the sunflowers are considered invasive, show up where soil has been disturbed and don’t do much to control erosion. “Once our more desirable grasses start taking over, they tend to disappear.”
“As long as we’re keeping weeds out and we’re stabilizing the soil, I think wildflowers could be useful,” said Bolin, who noted that blue flax has found a place in the highway department’s seed mix. “I like beautiful roadsides.”