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Mr. Smarty Plants - Wildflower seeds that drop into a sidewalk crack

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Wednesday - May 31, 2006

From: Cleveland, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Wildflower seeds that drop into a sidewalk crack
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

This is an odd question. I'm writing a children's book about a seed that gets dropped in the crack of a sidewalk or driveway and blooms there. Can you tell me if there are any wildflowers that it would be possible for this to happen? Would they return the following year, or be choked out? THANK YOU!

ANSWER:

As it so happens, I have an Autumn sage (Salvia greggi) that has been growing and blooming from a crack in my sidewalk for a year now. It must have gotten there from a seed dropping in the crack. It is a perennial so should continue growing there unless it gets pulled up or trampled. I think there are lots of candidates for doing that. In fact, any seed that is small enough to land in the crack has the potential to germinate and grow there as long as it receives the right amount of moisture. Here are a few species that regularly do this:

Low wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis). There are other species of wild petunia, but this one has a wide distribution
Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)
Four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa)
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Several months ago our Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center magazine Native Plants featured an article ("Finding Their Niche" by Julie Bawden Davis, Vol. 22, no. 2, Fall 2005, p.22) concerning plants that are happy growing in small crevices. Although some of the contents of the Native Plants issues are available online; unfortunately, that article isn't one of them. Perhaps your local library carries the magazine.
 

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