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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - December 21, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Need a native pine tree for Austin, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Is there a native pine tree that you would recommend for the Austin, Texas area? We're considering the Colorado pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) or the Papershell pinyon (Pinus remota)? Would either of these work in a sloped residential backyard in south/central Austin that has not been disturbed in many years? Or should we shy away from pine trees for the Austin area? Thank you!

ANSWER:

If you look around Austin,  you’ll  discover that there is a dearth of pine trees in the city.
I’ve included USDA distribution maps for the species you mentioned: Pinus edulis (Colorado pinyon pine) (distribution ) and Pinus remota (Papershell pinyon) (distribution ).  A third Pinyon pine is Pinus cembroides (Mexican pinyon)  (distribution ).

A pine that occurs closer to Austin is the Loblolly Pine Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine) (distribution), but its growth needs aren’t satisfied by the Austin soils.

A tool that you can use to help with tree selection is the Texas Tree Planting Guide. This is an interactive guide developed by the Texas Forest service that helps with tree selection, planting and care.

Another source of information is the Recommended Species feature of our Native Plant Database. Click on Central Texas on the map and you will get a list of 157 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Central Texas. Since you are interested in trees, go to the Narrow Your Search Box and make the following selections: Choose Texas under State, Tree under General Appearance, and Perennial under Lifespan. Check Sun under light Requirement, Dry under Soil Moisture and 12-36 under height. Click the Narrow your search button and your  list shrinks to 13 plants that meet these criteria.

You can also check with folks at the Travis County office of Texas AgriLife Extension for some good advice.

 

 

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