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?


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
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


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.?


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 General Botany Questions

Percentage of worlds flowers of each color
July 14, 2007 - What percentage of the world's flowers are blue? red? white? yellow?
view the full question and answer

How do Venus flytraps really work?
May 13, 2010 - How do venus flytraps *really* work? I've read it has something to do with the hairs in their "mouth," but is there a chemical reaction going on? A physical "trigger"? Help me understand the Venu...
view the full question and answer

Ruffly foliage on native lantana
November 05, 2013 - A native lantana in my front yard has developed ruffly foliage on one stem. It looks like miniature broccoli. What can this be?
view the full question and answer

Brownish-gold worm-looking things on loblolly pines
May 08, 2015 - We have a large loblolly pine that each spring drops thousands of brownish-gold "worm" looking things (about 1/2 to 1" long). Do they have a name and what is their purpose?
view the full question and answer

North American plant that inhibits mold and mildew growth
October 06, 2008 - Hi! There, I just wanted to know is there a north American plant that inhibits or eradicates mold and mildew growth, in the home. Also do they make a CFL (the new energy efficient spiral) type light b...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center