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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Thursday - March 27, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Container Gardens, Shrubs
Title: Possibility of invasiveness of blackberry bush
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I bought a blackberry bush from Home Depot last year. My sister said if I planted it in the ground it would take over my lawn. So I put it in a big planter up against my fence, but I'd like to put it in the ground. If I put it in the ground and the bush gets big and takes over just the fence that's great (more berries for me), but I am just concerned it would send runners up through my lawn and all over my back yard. Will that happen? Should I keep it in the planter?

ANSWER:

We don't want to sound snobbish, but we really wish you hadn't bought your plant at a big box store. The bottom line is we have no idea what your plant is or what its growth habits will be. This plant could be a native of some other country, or grown in another state where they prospered and shipped here, where they won't. They almost undoubtedly are hybridized, which makes it harder still.

Botany.com has a long article on blackberries, from which you might try to figure out if your blackberry has tall, relatively stiff stems, which means it will need a supporting trellis or fence, or trails and roots in the soil, and could very well could be popping up all over your yard. There are many other berries, closely related, in the Rubus family. When we searched our own Native Plant Database on Rubus, we got 61 plant names back, of which 24 had "blackberry" in their common names. Of those 24, not a single one was shown to be either native to Texas or naturally distributed in Texas. In other words, they may not prosper here.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center focuses its energies and attentions on plants native to North America, their preservation in their (unhybridized) natural state, and propagation. When you buy a "mystery" plant, you really have no way to predict if it will thrive or even live. At this point, it's probably going to have to be your decision whether to keep it in the pot, or try it in the ground. You could try leaving it in the pot for one more year and see what habits it develops.

 

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