A city sign designates a protected wildflower area at Lake Cliff Park. Photos by Monica Johnson.
May 13, 2016
The city of Dallas wants to give wildflowers more real estate.
Texas wildflowers, such as bluebonnets, primrose and Indian blanket, are more than just pretty scenery. They are vital sources of food and shelter to pollinators such as butterflies, bees, moths, birds and bats.
Humans rely on pollinators because most of the plants we use for food and many of those we need for oxygen require pollination. Plus, birds and bats help control pesky insects like mosquitoes.
However, in recent years, pollinators have been declining in population, partly due to humankind. As urban sprawl increases, pollinator habitats are destroyed. Herbicides and pesticides are also detrimental, if not deadly, to pollinators.
To combat this, the city of Dallas has implemented a pollinator conservation program, which complements the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, an initiative Mayor Mike Rawlings recently signed, which encourages cities to help save monarch butterflies.
At the helm of the pollinator conservation program is Brett Johnson, who recently joined the city of Dallas as senior environmental coordinator.
“With this program, we’re increasing wildflower areas, which are important for monarchs and other pollinators, especially when they are moving through during spring migration and heading north. We’re focusing on native species,” said Johnson.
Because native wildflowers are accustomed to the local climate, they tend to be low-maintenance and last longer in adverse conditions. However, due to Texas’ magnitude, what is considered native in one area might not be in another area.
“If you go 100 miles east or west of Dallas, you’re in vastly different climates, which support different types of native wildflowers,” says Johnson.
Some of Johnson’s favorite North Texas natives are mealy blue sage and turk’s cap, along with two types of milkweeds: antelope horn and green. Milkweed is popular with butterflies and necessary for monarch survival, as their caterpillars eat only milkweed.
While many city parks, including Lake Cliff Park and Kiest Park, already have established wildflower areas, Johnson plans to increase wildflower areas by 50 acres during his first year. And he’ll continue native grass restoration at White Rock Lake, which is also an important habitat for pollinators.
However, to make this program a success, Johnson needs the help of Dallasites.
“My goal is to run the pollinator program with a limited budget. That’s going to require volunteers and citizen scientists. You can volunteer at your local park – one time or ongoing projects,” Johnson says.
And if you are a homeowner, a part of neighborhood association or involved with a school or community garden, Johnson encourages you to plant a “pollinator garden.” All you need is 100 square feet to plant 10 milkweed plants (5 of 1 species - 5 of another) and four other species of wildflowers.
“Once installed, there’s little upkeep – just plant and get out of the way,” says Johnson. “Even those without yards can keep potted wildflowers on their porch – every little bit helps!”
To learn more or to volunteer, contact Jonathan.johnson@