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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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Wednesday - June 07, 2006

From: Leander, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Native Texas Hill Country nitrogen-fixing plants
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Please help me find a listing of native (TX Hill Country) nitrogen-fixing plants.

ANSWER:

A centralized listing of nitrogen-fixing plants native to the Texas Hill Country does not appear to exist at this point, but there is a relatively simple way to construct one. Since almost all members of the legume family, Fabaceae, are known to fix nitrogen, finding a list of native Central Texas plants in that family would cover most nitrogen-fixing plants in your region. Since you're in Williamson County, this flora of neighboring Travis County would be a good start. Simply go down to the Fabaceae section to get to the leguminous plants. There are many, including some commonly used in landscaping, such as Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora), redbud (Cercis canadensis), Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), and bluebonnets (Lupinus spp.).

Consulting books that cover a broader region, such as Shinners and Mahler's Flora of North Central Texas (which includes most of Williamson County) and the Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (which lists leguminous plants under the older name, Leguminosae), paying attention to which species occur in the Hill Country, can help produce a more complete list. Both books are commonly available in Texas libraries.

In addition to the legumes, there are several other plant genera that fix nitrogen. Central Texas examples of these include Mountain Mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), native to the western edge of the Hill Country, and Redroot (Ceanothus herbaceous).

 

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