En Español

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - June 10, 2014

From: Fayetteville, AR
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Advice about buffalo grass lawn in NW Arkansas
Answered by: Nan Hampton


I am determined to grow a native buffalo grass (bouteloua) lawn in Northwest Arkansas. My question is this: I am considering mixing an annual rye into the bouteloua seed mix for the purpose of quick, temporary growth. My thought is the annual rye will help the slower-germinating bouteloua seeds stabilize. The annual rye should die off and allow the bouteloua to thrive. Any ideas? Thanks LBJWFC! You guys are terrific.


Mr. Smarty Plants loves compliments!   Thank you!

Now consider this—if you plant the annual rye and it blooms to make seeds, those seeds are going to fall on your lawn and next spring will sprout to form more annual rye year after year.  In addition to that, the rye grasses (Lolium spp.) are not native to North America and are considered "invasive" in many areas.  Also, since they are "cool season" grasses, they are not likely to come up well at this time of the year.  Please see the answer to a previous question about using them for lawn turf. 

Next, I think you need to visit the USDA Plants Database to look for the distribution of Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) in Arkansas.   On the USDA Plants Database page for buffalograss you can click on Arkansas on the map to see that Washington County is not included in its distribution.  If you click on Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, you will see that none of the counties in those states that are near northwestern Arkansas show buffalograss there. I suspect your average yearly rainfall (45.51 inches/year according to US Climate Data) is high enough that weeds are going to out compete the buffalograss and it would be a constant struggle to maintain an attractive turf.  So, I can't in good conscience recommend that you to try to grow buffalograss in northwest Arkansas.  However, if you haven't read our How to Articles, Native Lawns: Buffalograss and Native Lawns: Habiturf™ – Ecological Lawns, I recommend that you read both articles. 

The University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture has an article, Choosing a Grass for Arkansas Lawns, that includes an assessment of two native grasses—buffalograss and Kentucky bluegrass—for Arkansas.  Unfortunately, the grasses that they rate most highly are non-natives. 

There are a couple of possibilities for native lawns that are likely to thrive in Washington County, Arkansas.   First of all, there is Poa pratensis (Kentucky bluegrass).  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.  You can also read the assessment by the University of Arkansas Department of Agriculture mentioned above.

You might also consider using sedges.  Here is an article by John Greenlee from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden "Sedge Lawns for Every Landscape".  Here is another article from Organic Gardening about using sedges as lawns and here are some sedges that occur in Washington County, Arkansas:

Carex blanda (Eastern woodland sedge)  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers.

Carex retroflexa (Reflexed sedge)  Here is more information from Plants Delight Nursery in North Carolina and Blooming Advantage in Oregon.

Carex albicans (Whitetinge sedge)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex crinita (Fringed sedge)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex flaccosperma (Thinfruit sedge)  Here is more information from Missouri Botanical Garden.

Carex granularis (Limestone meadow sedge)  Here is more information from Illinois Wildflowers.


More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Arguments for planting native grasses in College Station TX
April 09, 2010 - I hear big ads about putting zoysia grass on my urban lawn but I would rather plant native grass, like Texas Bluegrass (for shady areas) and Blue Grama and Buffalograss grasses. What arguments can I g...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a dry hillside in central Texas
March 07, 2010 - We need to plant some plants or grasses on a 3/4 acre sloaping hillside which does not get watered. Any recommendations for native grasses or plants which don't need care and will keep the lot from e...
view the full question and answer

When do Habiturf® grasses make seeds?
June 16, 2015 - I planted Habiturf seeds last year near Dripping Springs. It looks like the Buffalo grass has had seeds on it for a week or 2. How long does it need to remain on the live Buffalo Grass before it can b...
view the full question and answer

Brown spots in St. Augustine grass
July 05, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, My husband and I are in the Air Force and were recently moved to Cibolo Texas. We built a home and hired a landscaper to finish the yard May 07 (with irrigation system). We laid d...
view the full question and answer

Groundcovers for Miami, FL
November 10, 2011 - I live in Miami, Florida. I have a medium size Bismarck Palm in my front yard. What would be a good ground cover other than grass around this palm?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center