Explore Plants

Share

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
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
2 ratings

Tuesday - October 02, 2007

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Prosopsis velutina (velvet mesquite), Larrea tridentata (creosote bush), rain smell
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am an El Paso native living in Plano TX. I terribly miss the smell of rain in El Paso and have learned that this smell is due to the velvet mesquite tree and also the creosote bush, among other things. I wanted to know if these were native enough to survive in Plano, and if planting was recommended. If you have more information on what vegetation causes the wonderful smell of rain in El Paso and how I can duplicate it in my yard, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Prosopis velutina (velvet mesquite) is native to the desert areas of California, Arizona, Mexico and New Mexico—but obviously "leaks" over into Texas near El Paso. An info sheet from the AHS (American Horticultural Society) states that it does well in the USDA Plant Cold Hardiness Zones of 7-9 and the AHS Plant Heat Zones of 10-7. Plano, in zone 8 for USDA and 9 for AHS, falls well within those ranges. The range for Larrea tridentata (creosote bush) is USDA 8-11 and AHS 12-8, so it also falls within the range of Plano for temperature extremes. However, soil moisture would probably be the biggest deterrent for success of the two species in Plano since the average rainfall for Plano is 29 inches and the average rainfall for El Paso is about 9 inches. As a possible substitute, another mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa (honey mesquite), is native to the Plano area. I'm not aware, however, that it is noted for its pleasant smell after a rain. You should be aware, also, that farmers and ranchers often consider mesquites noxious weeds (even though they are native) and spend a lot of time trying to keep them under control.

In addition to the volatile oils from plants, a big contributor to the distinctive smell that comes after rain is soil bacteria. You should certainly still be able to experience this smell in Plano.

Mr. Smarty Plants has been assuming that you are talking about the distinctive smell that follows a rain, but people also report a unique smell that comes right before a rain. The smell BEFORE the rain has been attributed to a chemical called Petrichor, or in chemical terms—2-decanone. The chemicals that are constantly being volatilized and released from trees and other plants can be absorbed by rocks. The increase in humidity right before a rain has the effect of releasing these chemicals from the rock and creating the smell. Velvet mesquite and/or creosote bush must have this chemical in their makeup if they are contributing to the before-rain smell.

 

 

More Propagation Questions

Propagation of Ashe junipers
June 04, 2008 - I am trying to re-build what man has destroyed in the Kingsland/Marble Falls area on a property we own out there. I would LOVE to plant a couple ashe junipers for several reasons, a couple being: 1. ...
view the full question and answer

Collecting seeds for Texas Bluebell from Clifton TX
June 13, 2011 - How and when should I try and collect seeds from the Texas Bluebell?
view the full question and answer

Propagation of native Ohio buckeye from seed
September 25, 2008 - My granddaughter has collected "buck eyes"; can we plant them to start our own tree? If so, how do we go about it!
view the full question and answer

Century plant offshoots in Denver
January 01, 2009 - Each year I get a small "baby" Century Plants in the early winter..December - January, But it dies off before summer. We live in Denver, CO My main plant is doing fine. Also, should I cut the lo...
view the full question and answer

Trimming prairie coneflower for lower height when blooming in Hampshire IL
August 16, 2009 - Can the prairie coneflower, Ratibida Columnifera, be cut by half or some amount before setting flower buds to force the plant to bloom at a shorter height? If not, when is the best time to dig and tra...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.