Drive along a South Texas highway and you may see lush native grasses or flowering forbs lining the roadway.
When Texas officials proposed the construction of a new highway, I-69, through South Texas over a decade ago, many landowners feared local habitats would be ripped up and replaced with Bermudagrass and other non-Texas species.
Landowners and wildlife experts came up with a plan to restore habitats once the new pavement was laid. The result was Texas Native Seeds, an initiative based out of Texas A&M University-Kingsville that works to make native species commercially available for habitat restoration projects.
Now, the program is expanding to the Crossroads, and researchers are working to identify grasses and flowering forbs native to this region for future restoration projects.
"Our goal is to provide regionally adapted seed sources," said Doug Jobes, assistant director for the Coastal Prairies Native Seed Project, the local offshoot of Texas Native Seeds, which covers about 18 counties on the coastal plains and East Texas brush country. "We work with seed companies to make them commercially available."
At the South Texas Farm & Ranch Show, Jobes will discuss how local seeds can help establish native habitats for wildlife, especially in the wake of a development project like a pipeline or roadway.
The Coastal Prairies project, which is headquartered in Edna, currently has six species in development, including the spike-tipped knotroot bristle-grass, the wispy silver bluestem and purpletop tridens, a colorful bunchgrass.
Not only are these species eye-catching, they can also contribute to habitats for livestock grazing, pollinators and other wildlife, Jobes said.
The species take five to seven years to develop in a controlled setting before they are made commercially available. In the meantime, Jobes offers advice on site and species selection and management.
"There's quite a bit of different seed available for landowners," Jobes said.