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?

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
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

Wednesday - April 05, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: More on bluebonnets
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Hello: We have been told that the sparse Bluebonnet appearance this Spring is due to sparse rainfall at the appropriate times. Were there fewer seeds to sprout and grow? Or are the seeds still in the soil, waiting until better conditions next year? If so, how long (years) can the seeds remain dormant? (... if the birds, bugs, and bacteria don't eat them first)

ANSWER:

The seeds are likely still in the soil, waiting to sprout and grow, if they were there to begin with. During years without enough rainfall, bluebonnet seeds can't imbibe enough water to sprout so they lie dormant until a more favorable year. Just how many years they can remain viable in the soil without sprouting is unclear. I've found source after source that says they can stay that way "for years" but none that are any more specific. I assume this would be a hard thing to research, as it would require years or even decades of observation of individual seeds. Seeds of some species of plants can remain viable in the soil for decades until triggered by whatever their trigger happens to be (fire, appropriate sunlight, arrival of beneficial microorganisms, etc.). And, yes, birds, bugs, and bacteria can have an effect on seed survival. Bluebonnets are particularly impacted in overly moist years by pillbugs and damping-off fungi.
 

More Wildflowers Questions

Native wildflowers for farm in Virginia
December 24, 2008 - I am looking for wildflowers native to VA to spread in various beds around our Virginia Beach farm - does a mix exist, similar to what would have been spread along highways, that you can help me locat...
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for hill with erosion in San Carlos, CA
September 22, 2012 - What wildflowers would you suggest for our hills that have erosion, low ground cover in San Carlos, California?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for an outdoor wedding in New York
February 06, 2009 - I am planning an outdoor wedding in New Rochelle, NY in May. We would like to use native plants. Can you suggests some that we can use in the bouquets and as potted plants? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Bluebonnets in Colorado mountains
April 21, 2007 - Will Bluebonnets grow up in Colorado in the mountains?
view the full question and answer

Garden planning for wedding in Tallahassee
July 18, 2012 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I would love your advice on creating a Wildflower Garden Plan. Earlier this spring in Tallahassee (North Florida). I sowed Wildflowers for the first time to see what would blo...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center