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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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Monday - March 09, 2009

From: Pflugerville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Potential allelopathy of cultivar of Artemisia ludoviciana
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

I recently submitted a question regarding allelopathic potential of artemisia ludoviciana on rusty blackhaw viburnum, not specifying that I meant Vibernum rufidulum. Mr. SP interpreted my viburnum as Viburnum lentago, which is not what I have. Sorry for the confusion. Anyway, I read the USDA fact sheet and it did indicate further down that the cultivar of A. ludoviciana called Summit can be allelopathic. I don't know if I have this cultivar or not, but if so would it affect an established plant or only seedlings?

ANSWER:

Thank you for clarifying your information and giving Mr. Smarty Plants an opportunity to amend the reply. You are correct that the USDA identifies as allelopathic a cultivar of Artemesia ludoviciana called Summit. A comprehensive search of national and international research literature did not yield data to corroborate this information. Only a DNA analysis will identify the correct cutivar of your Artemesia. Mr. Smarty Plants guesses that this would not be an easy or attractive option to you. Chances are the artemesia is not toxic to a well-established plant, but you may be unwilling to take that chance with your two lovely native trees. If that is so, Mr. Smarty Plants suggests removing the Artemisia and planting a different ground cover between your trees. (You could move that Artemisia near something you want to get rid of and see if the Artemisia will do the job for you!)

The point here is that when you are dealing with cultivars and hybrids, you seldom know what the parents of the hybrid are or what their characteristics were. It's unlikely that the vendor who sold you the plant knows, and probably not even the wholesaler who grew the plant in greenhouses and shipped it to your local nursery. Although allelopathy can work through roots, stems or branches, it is most often exhibited in trees shedding their toxins on plants having the audacity to try to grow beneath them. It might kill freshly emerging seedlings, but you probably aren't trying to establish a viburnum forest anyway. 

So, your next question might be, what should replace the Artemesia? Appreciating your commitment to Texas native plants, return to the Native Plant Database. Select location (Texas), habit (grass or herb) and duration (perennial). The requirements for your site will probably be shade and dry for light and soil moisture. Using that information, Mr. Smarty Plants found 9 grasses and 43 herbaceous plants potentially suitable for your site. Good luck!

 

 

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