En EspaŅol

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?

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
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
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

Planting time for late October bloom of Cowpen Daisy from Marble Falls, TX
September 18, 2010 - How fast does Cowpen Daisy grow from seed to flower? Do we still have time to plant seed and get flowers by the end of October in order to attract late migrating Monarch Butterflies through the Austi...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Sideroxylon lanuginosum in Austin
August 12, 2009 - I have a tall (30-40 ft) Sideroxylon lanuginosum in my backyard. Last fall hundreds of saplings popped up in my yard following runners from the tall tree. I would like to keep a few of these sapling...
view the full question and answer

Planting begonias in the Dallas area
March 25, 2009 - What month is it time to plant begonias in the Dallas, Texas area?
view the full question and answer

Variety of colors in bluebonnet seeds from Houston
November 18, 2013 - Bluebonnet seeds I have collected are a variety of colors, from the sandy/tan color to a grayish color and black color. Are all variations viable? Are they equally viable?
view the full question and answer

Rooting cuttings in water from Rifle CO
July 11, 2012 - Found russian sage lavender stems from cutting. Need to find out if I can root them in water? I also have found rose cutting; wondering if I can put them in water to root? I have a western chokecher...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center