Following the lead of highway planners from the Lone Star State, the federal government plans to sow native wildflowers along federal-aid highways throughout the country.

Texas highway officials have been sowing bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and daisies along state roads for more than 50 years, a practice made popular by Lady Bird Johnson during the presidency of her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Last month, the Federal Highway Administration published a final rule requiring that 25 cents of every $100 in federal highway landscaping funds be used to plant native wildflowers.

The idea to sow the seeds of wildflowers nationwide came from Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.), who last winter guided legislation through Congress mandating the planting.

On the basis of Texas' results, the wildflower planting will not only beautify the nation's highways, but also save the taxpayers money, Bentsen said.

"Texas has worked on {a wildflower} program for 50 years, and they have found that it cuts down on the amount of mowing. You don't have to mow once a week. Instead you mow one or two times a season," Bentsen said. "You also find that people don't throw as much litter."

According to the new regulations, which became effective on Sept. 14, wildflowers will be planted as part of any landscaping project undertaken on the federal-aid highway system.

A waiver can be obtained if a state certifies that native wildflowers cannot be grown satisfactorily, that there is a scarcity of planting areas or that the planting areas are to be used for agricultural planting.

"All but four states have some form of native-growth program already. Those states are Montana, Utah, Hawaii and Nevada," said Eugene Johnson, a spokesman for the highway administration. "But overall, the requirement will bring about more wildflowers along our highway throughout the country."