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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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Thursday - June 30, 2011

From: Lucas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Care of wildflower meadow dried out in drought
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Mr Smarty Plants, Our wildflower patch is completely dried up here in Lucas,Tx. What do you do with the field? Mow it? Trim it? Let it be? The patch is about 1/2 acre.. Thanks,

ANSWER:

This year's drought has been harmful even for Texas native plants.  But most of them are accustomed to dry years and will come back when conditions are better.  I expect that your wildflower patch contains both annual and perennial species.  As a meadow matures to about three years of age the perennials tend to predominate and will survive as long as their roots remain intact.  But the annual flowers, such as Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), require seeds from this year's plants (or ungerminated seeds left over from a previous year) to produce new plants next season.  If your plants bore flowers this spring they most probably set seed.  Mowing the patch will help release any seeds still in pods and clear the way for them to germinate with the fall rains.  Seeds will germinate only if in good contact with the mineral soil.  You might consider dragging a rake or board over the area if you think some seeds have not fallen to the ground. If you can still see seeds of a few of your favorite plants, harvest them by hand and scatter them on the ground in September in advance of fall rains.

If you have tall grasses, such as Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) or Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass), do not set your mower blade lower than six inches.  Controlled burns of meadows with expert guidance are sometimes recommended, but it is much too dangerous to do this in such a dry year as we are having.

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks you will be rewarded with a fine crop of wildflowers next spring.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Evening star
Mentzelia laevicaulis

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