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 General Botany Questions

Allelopathy in Sassafras albidum
January 11, 2012 - Sassafras albidum description says "Sassafras is allelopathic and can discourage the growth of certain other plants within its root zone." My question is: WHICH plants are susce...
view the full question and answer

Difference between class notes and size notes on website
August 09, 2012 - I enjoy using the native plant database in planning my flower beds. However, I don't know the difference between Class notes and size notes. Can you help me out?
view the full question and answer

Books on Lilies
August 27, 2006 - Dear Sir, I am looking for a book covering the Lily Family as a whole, i.e., it should preferably also discuss other Genera than Lilium only. I am especially interested in Lily members occurring in t...
view the full question and answer

Plants that might absorb moisture from air
February 27, 2007 - I am searching for a plant that will reduce the relative humidity of a building. I work for a manufacturing company that is experiencing problems with water condensing on ceilings and equipment due t...
view the full question and answer

Are Native Cultivars As Beneficial to Wildlife?
September 02, 2015 - I am working on adding more native plants to my small acreage. I would like to know if using a selection or cultivar of a native species is as likely to have wildlife benefits as using a randomly prop...
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