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?

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

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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - March 06, 2008

From: Blue Springs, MO
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Wildflowers
Title: Blooms as far as the eye can see
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

Why are some wildflowers capable of putting on spectacular sweeps of blooms "for as far as the eye can see" such as Indian paintbrush at Vail Pass in Colorado, or bluebonnets in the Texas hill country, poppies in California, etc., while others are more singular, harder to find in any kind of numbers, such as sego or mariposa lilies, orchids, shooting stars, etc.?

ANSWER:

Ahhhhh....Mr. Smarty Plants loves these "why is the sky blue" type questions especially those that have to do with plant reproduction and evolution. So here goes. Most of the big bloomers are annual plants and their strategy is to germinate, grow, bloom synchronously, reproduce, produce many seeds, then die in a one year span. That strategy has evolved over millennia and it requires large number of individuals participating to be effective. If only a handful of annuals participated, there is a good chance they wouldn't "find" each other to breed and the population would go kaput.

Now, let's compare that to perennials. Because they live multiple years, they have multiple opportunities to reproduce and can invest more time and resources in growing vegetatively. Large numbers are not required for reproduction since a missed opportunity in one year could be made up in the next year. Compared to annuals, they have a much higher expectation of future life.

Of course, there are other reasons plants might be rare including loss of pollinators, seed dispersers, habitat destruction, etc. There are also other reasons plants can be more common including human intervention, favorable environmental conditions, invasive, etc. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

More Wildflowers Questions

Possible tax exemptions for wildlife management
August 07, 2006 - I am interested in finding out whether there are state grants to help land owners grow wildflowers on otherwise unused portions of their properties. Would you happen to know whom I should contact or w...
view the full question and answer

Source for seed of Blackfoot Daisy from Amarillo TX
October 29, 2011 - I need help finding Melampodium leucanthum seed. I have spent the last few hours on the web searching for them. I checked the resources in your lists and cannot find seed. I live in Potter Coun...
view the full question and answer

Storing Rudbeckia Hirta Seed
October 10, 2014 - I just bought and planted your Rudbeckia hirta seed. I have a lot leftover. Can I store it until spring or better yet, next fall? If so, how?
view the full question and answer

Indoor and Outdoor, Fast Growing Plants for California
October 22, 2015 - Iím looking for the best plants for me. I have small kids so they would have to be safe. I would like them to be able to grow inside or outside. I would love for them to grow fast and reproduce fast.
view the full question and answer

When to harvest bluebonnet seeds in Hurst TX
April 12, 2009 - Can I harvest the Blue Bonnet Seeds now (April) or do I have to wait until they dry up & pods begin to open?
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center