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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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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Saturday - September 24, 2011

From: Granbury, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Propagation, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plant called beargrass from Granbury, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am not a native Texan. We have a clump of what my husband (from Big Spring) calls "Bear Grass." It is over to the side of our yard and we have always enjoyed it (moved here in 1982). It blooms in the spring with white stalks 3 or 4 feet high. Usually gallardias come up in it and bloom at the same time. Gorgeous! We moved away for a while, and have come back two years ago. I started a wildflower garden with flowers I dug up from our small pasture about 3 feet to the side of the bear grass. Now suddenly it is sending shoots off every direction. As I was digging up the native grass on the edge of my bed, I kept running into big thick woody runners with baby bear grasses on them. All these years it stayed pretty much the same. Why is is suddenly getting such itchy feet? I did notice since we came back that there are open spaces developing in the clump. Used to be that each old plant that bloomed would send up several new plants at its base. (The first year we were back there were 36 bloom stalks! This year only about 10.) We dug down some and it's hard clay and a long way down to the runners. What can we do? (And do you know what the true name of it is?

ANSWER:

This is a redo of two previous answers to this question. Someone better at plant identification than this member of the Mr. Smarty Plants team has suggested that it is more likely that the plant in question is Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista). One of its common names is "Texas beargrass." It is neither a grass nor a succulent but a member of the lily family. This USDA Plant Profile map shows that it is, indeed, native to the area in question.In fact, it is grown on the grounds of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

However, our original answer to the question is still the same. It is spreading out because, while it can survive drought and heat, it still loves more moisture and cultivated soil. It is a lovely plant and we certainly would not recommend trying to remove it, but just control. The open spaces in the first plant probably indicate the aging of the plant, so it is naturally trying to propagate, as the primary goal for every living thing is to make more of itself.

We certainly don't recommend herbicides; they can have a negative effect on your soils and on the wildflowers you are trying to grow. Sorry it took us so long to correctly identify the plant in question.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

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