Golf courses finding native wildflowers and grasses an environmentally friendly way to reduce maintenance costs

 Article from the News Sentinel, by Kevin Kilbane

… Heartland Restoration worked with both local golf courses to provide the native plant seed mix they used to start their prairie areas. The plants include those with interesting names, such as Ohio spiderwort, rattlesnake master, foxglove beardtongue and ironweed.

Heartland Restoration has noticed increasing interest in planting wildflower areas from private landowners, but not much change by golf courses, Van Laeken said.

Both Chalifoux and Riley said they plant the native wildflowers and grasses in areas where golfers rarely hit balls because some of the plants grow to 6 to 8 feet tall. Any ball hit in there won’t be found.

To make it easier for golfers to play out of native plant areas, Fort Wayne Country Club also has planted two areas – at holes No. 4 and No. 11 – with native fescue grasses that have short blades at their base and taller seed stems reaching up to 18 inches tall, Chalifoux said.

Golfers will be able to find and play balls hit accidentally into the fescue grass areas, but the grasses don’t require mowing, fertilizing or watering, he said.

Response from golfers has been mixed.

Some like the color and changing blooms the native plants add to the golf course, Riley and Chalifoux said. Others don’t seem to notice them or think of them as weeds.

But both men think golfers will see more areas planted in native plants and grasses at golf courses in the future because it’s both cost-effective and good for the environment.

Their efforts also won praise from Alex Cornwell, organization manager and co-lead beekeeper for Southwest Honey Company in Fort Wayne.

“Golf courses are typically large lots of land, consisting of only green grass,” Cornwell said via email. “This equates to a desert for pollinators because there is so much open space with little foliage to gather nutrients from and few undisturbed areas for pollinators live in. However, utilizing the space to create more habitat for pollinators will help them.”

He said pollinators, other insects and animals also would benefit from the reduced use of pesticides and chemicals on golf course grass, especially near pollinator-friendly areas and water run-off or ponds where insects and animals may go to drink water.

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