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Mr. Smarty Plants - Is Annual Rye Choking Out Wildflowers in Austin?

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Saturday - January 15, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Is Annual Rye Choking Out Wildflowers in Austin?
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

We live about 3 miles from the wildflower center on 3 acres and there is a natural area on our property that gets a lot of wildflowers. Last winter we threw out annual rye seed to have some greenery during the winter (big mistake!). By the time last spring came, we still had a lot of tall grass and I told my husband we should weed eat it down one more time, but we didn't, and I think the tall grass choked out the wildflowers, as we had half as many. We didn't put out grass seed this year but I was wondering how we should maintain this area. or should we just let it be? There are native grasses growing there and as of now they are dormant but when spring comes I am unsure if we should trim down any grasses or not. Please help. Thank you

ANSWER:

First of all, don't beat yourself up too badly about the rye being to blame for your lack of wildflowers. Do, however, beat yourself enough so that you don't do it again. Mr. Smarty Plants only condones native plants.

Even with the great year for wildflowers we have experienced here in central Texas, some spots didn't have as many flowers as in previous years. Why? Who knows. Probably there are seeds sitting dormant in your area that just didn't get the word to come up this year. They may decide to come up this spring - or not.

As for this year, I'd recommend you go ahead and trim the dormant grass right now before the spring growth starts. Pretend you are a herd of buffalo munching it down close to the ground. That's what happened on the native prairies where these grasses originally grew. That may, or may not help the flowers, but at least it will get rid of the dead grass material so that the spring growth will show up well.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures to replace what you missed this year:


Lupinus texensis


Gaillardia pulchella


Engelmannia peristenia

 

 

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