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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 21, 2011

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Setaria scheelei grass for San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

It seems that ornamental grasses for dry shady places are few and far between. Southwestern Bristlegrass (Setaria scheelei) is exactly what I'm looking for and would solve all my problems! Only I can't figure out how to acquire this lovely plant. Native seed suppliers don't seem to carry it and I don't see it on your Spring Plant Sale list. Might it be available at the Fall Sale? How else might I go about solving this little dilemma?

ANSWER:

Okay, we see what you're saying. Even the list of 652 plants that grow on the grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center does not include Setaria scheelei (Southwestern bristlegrass). We went to our usual first resort for grass seeds, Native American Seeds, Grasses, and they don't list it, either. Native American Seed always has a tent where they sell seeds at our Plant Sales, but if it's not in their catalog, it seems unlikely that they will have it with them at the Spring or the Fall Sale.

So, we dug a little further. Under Native Mixes,  NAS has a Shade-Friendly Mix of grasses, including Setaria macrostachya, Plains Bristlegrass, which we do not have in our Native Plant Database. Here is some more information on Plains Bristlegrass.

We don't want to throw cold water on your project, but we don't think you should expect any plant to solve all your problems, garden or otherwise. A grass mix designed for dry shady places would be far more predictable and reliable than putting all your eggs in one grass. We recommend you at least consider the shade mix from NAS. It includes the following grasses. Those that are in our database are links to the pages on those plants, so you can study their growing conditions and requirements as apply to your own situation,

Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye or canada wild rye)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Setaria macrostachya

Nassella leucotricha (Texas wintergrass)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Tridens flavus


Chasmanthium latifolium


Elymus canadensis


Bouteloua curtipendula


Elymus virginicus


Nassella leucotricha

 

 

 

 

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