10,000 sunflowers help rehab a vacant lot in St. Louis

As part of Washington University's Land Lab program, a vacant lot in St. Louis was made into a sunflower field. (Richard Reilly)

As part of Washington University’s Land Lab program, a vacant lot in St. Louis was made into a sunflower field. (Richard Reilly)

On a long-abandoned lot in St. Louis’ near north side, 10,000 sunflowers are sucking up the heavy metals that have helped stall development there for “longer than neighbors care to remember,” reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The project is called Sunflower+. It’s one of the winners of St. Louis’ inaugural “Sustainable Land Lab” competition, which was organized by Washington University in St. Louis and city officials. Over the next two years, the design team will cultivate and harvest four rotations of summer sunflowers and winter wheat on the vacant lot, hopefully preparing it for redevelopment in the future.

In a video produced for Washington University, members of the design team explained the environmental aim of this experiment in growing beauty from blight.

“If we can clean up and/or enrich this soil to make its redevelopment at some point down the road easier to do, more cost efficient, more environmentally friendly,” said Richard Reilly, a project manager who works for the Missouri Botanical Garden, “then we’ll have some long-term results from our project.”

Along with Don Koster of Washington University and a team of volunteers, Reilly successfully grew one crop rotation last year, and it’s already bearing fruit: Alderman Lyda Krewson has already enlisted the team to replicate their project further down Delmar Boulevard.

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