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

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

Silphium Perfoliatum Seeds
October 06, 2014 - I am trying to identify which part of the seedhead is the actual seed of the cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum. It is hard to find images. Some show the outer, larger, flat part of the seedhead which ...
view the full question and answer

Will wildflowers still be blooming end of March from Austin
November 20, 2009 - Hi Mr Smarty Pants - A wildflower enthusiast from Rome Italy wants to schedule a special visit to Austin end March early April 2010. Can she be sure wildflowers will still be blooming then?
view the full question and answer

Smoky Mountains Shaded Slope Plant Suggestions
April 29, 2013 - We live in a very shady spot in Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina. We would like to plant vegetation on a sloped area behind our cottage to stop erosion after building an addition. Our h...
view the full question and answer

Native, non-invasive plant seeds for each region in U.S.
June 09, 2006 - I need to identify a wildflower from each region that we can package in custom packaging to use as giveaways at our member zoos and aquariums. Our project this year is called Conservation Made Simple...
view the full question and answer

Bluebonnets in Vermont
December 18, 2011 - Hi - I visited my sister in early November and we were given a sample of bluebonnet seeds. I live in Vermont, though and did not try to plant them in the ground here, as I believe they will not surviv...
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