LAFAYETTE, La. — A Louisiana university is turfing out some turf grass to create wildflower-covered urban prairie. But first, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is letting the 10-acre (4-hectare) tract get long and shaggy.
Officials say that once the grass is at least 18 inches (46 centimeters) high, it will be sprayed with an environmentally safe herbicide and removed.
Four weeks after the herbicide is sprayed, the research park tract can be planted with plains tickseed and clasping coneflower. Both have yellow flowers with dark centers, but coneflowers are bigger and their centers are tall cones.
“These wildflowers have proven to grow well along roadside areas,” Gretchen Lacombe Vanicor, the University’s sustainability director, said in a news release Thursday. “Pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds, also find these native plants very attractive, and they will provide more biodiversity on campus.”
The project is part of the school’s plan to reduce mowing by 10 percent over the next three years. Vanicor said university maintenance crews, including those in Cade and New Iberia, spend 355 hours a week mowing and 263 hours a week using string trimmers during mowing season.
A second part of the Lafayette campus is being left unmowed so the turf grass can be killed to make room for native grasses.
Uncut blades of grass soak up herbicide more quickly “because there is more surface area for the chemical to be absorbed,” said James Foret, an instructor in the University’s School of Geosciences.
Bioswales — shallow troughs in which plants filter silt and contaminants from rainwater — are another part of the plan.
The university installed its first bioswale last year, and volunteers and staff created another this spring.
A project tentatively scheduled for next year will plant native grasses including Indian grass, big bluestem and switch grass, along four acres on either side of a coulee that runs down the middle of University Common behind Blackham Coliseum.
Soil erosion along the coulee has been a perennial problem, Vanicor said.
“The addition of native grasses is going to stabilize the area and cut down on the amount of soil that’s washed into the coulee when it rains. The grasses will also retain water and help reduce the burden on the city’s storm drainage system.”