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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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Tuesday - April 05, 2011

From: Cedar Park, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Native alternatives for invasive species
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'm a native plant landscape designer in central Texas, and know our plants well. Still looking for any help I can get on replacements for Asian jasmine, English ivy, Nandina, and Red tipped photinia. I try to convince clients to be patient and live with the rhythms of nature (ie, not everything has to be evergreen!)I refuse to put in the above mentioned plants, but when people INSIST on fast growing, evergreen plants (especially in the shade), are there good central Texas native alternatives to these non-native beasts? Evergreen groundcovers and evergreen "screening" shrubs are the hardest plants to replace, especially in the shade. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

We have just the site for you to find alternatives to invasive plants such as English ivy, nandina and redtip photinia.   TexasInvasives.org, in their database, offers a list of suggestions for alternatives to the invasive plants. Trachelsperma asiaticum (Asiatic jasmine) isn't in the Texas Invasives database but it is considered agressive and potentially invasive in Florida.

Other possibilities for evergreen shrubs include Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)—there are dwarf versions for a shorter hedge—and Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita)Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto) is also evergreen and grows only to about 5 feet.

There are several other alternatives for these particular plants that aren't mentioned on the Texas Invasives database.  For groundcovers:

Packera obovata (Golden groundsel) is evergreen.

Salvia lyrata (Lyreleaf sage) is evergreen.

Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern) is semi-evergreen.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge) and Carex planostachys (Cedar sedge) are both evergreen and do especially well in the shade.

For screening evergreen large shrubs or small trees, there are Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel) and Garrya ovata ssp. lindheimeri (Lindheimer's silktassel).  Addtionally, Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle), when grown on a fence or trellis offers evergreen screening.

C. Colston Burrell's book, Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, (Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  2006) offers suggestions for selected invasive plants.  Not all the plants suggested in this book as alternatives are native to Central Texas but it does offer some plants potentially suited to this area.

 

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