Planting Native Grasses and Wildflowers in Kennedy Park

Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) planted 13 acres of Electric Transmission right-of-way (ROW) in Kennedy Park with species of native warm season grasses (NWSG) and native wildflower species. This effort began with herbicide application in fall 2015, an additional herbicide application in spring 2016 followed by the planting of seeds. This replanted area is more beneficial to local wildlife and pollinators, and it results in lower ROW maintenance expense for MLGW. It should also serve as a pilot for other similar efforts.

The Wolf River Conservancy (WRC) generated this idea as MLGW and WRC were collaborating to identify opportunities to protect the Wolf River watershed. The City of Memphis is the landowner and is supportive of the project. While the majority of planting was seeds, Clean Memphis organized an effort to use 20 students from Memphis Business Academy to plant 200 plugs of several species of the wildflowers in the more visible areas of the ROW.

Representatives of local garden, bird, and pollinator societies were consulted prior to the project to get ideas on species. The neighborhood associations near Kennedy Park were notified prior to the project to give them an opportunity for input. Local and regional agencies with experience and knowledge of the topic were asked for guidance as well: Those included Memphis Botantic Garden, Memphis Zoo, UT Extension Service, Overton Park Conservancy, Agricenter, Ducks Unlimited, TDEC and TWRA.

This area is now growing into a well-established mix of native grasses and wildflowers, and increasing the abundance and diversity of wildlife around the site. Water runoff into the Wolf River should be well-filtered. MLGW will need to do less mowing and less herbicide applications to keep trees and vines from growing into its electric transmission lines. Users of Kennedy Park and the Wolf River Greenway will enjoy the beauty of the native plantings and the associated wildlife. School children involved in the effort hopefully gained an appreciation for the need and benefits of wild areas. We hope this effort serves as a template for similar projects.

In all, students and workers transformed about 13 acres – or 5,500 linear feet – into a field with such plants as black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and milkweed. The majority of the ROW runs through a healthy oak-hickory forest and crosses the Wolf River Greenway in two places. The native grasses and wildflowers provide food and habitat for birds, bees and butterflies. The meadow also will better filter any runoff into the nearby Wolf River.

Recent site surveys indicate that the native plants are doing a good job of suppressing the growth of woody species in the ROW. Additionally, several bird species that need this forest/prairie edge habitat to thrive have been observed. Those include indigo bunting, blue grosbeak, and yellow-breasted chat.

Photos – Watch the project evolve[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

May 2015

May 2015


June 2015

June 2015


Nov 2015 after first herbicide

November 2015 (after first herbicide)


May 2016

May 2016


June 2016

June 2016


Female Eastern Box Turtle

August 2016 – Female Eastern Box Turtle


August 2016

August 2016

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July 2017

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July 2017

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July 2017

June 2015-2

June 2015


July 2015

July 2015


March 2016

March 2016


June 2016

June 2016


June 2016

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August 2016

August 2016


August 2016

Partridge Pea Plant – August 2016

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July 2017

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July 2017

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July 2017

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September 2017

June 2018