En Español

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

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.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - November 03, 2011

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Planting, Watering, Drought Tolerant
Title: Restoring fire damage in Bastrop TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in the Bastrop State Park area. We were severely affected by the wildfire and as we are trying to rebuild our home, we are being very aware of the particularities of the recovery process. We lost a lot of the plants around our property but I have to admit, some of them were not native. Because of the current circumstances, we are looking into only bringing in native/non-invasive species. Would you have any recommendation as far as evergreens/ aquatic and perennial flowers? thank you very much

ANSWER:

The recent Bastrop fires were tragic on many levels; Mr. Smarty Plants will try to help you choose plants native to the area to help in the recovery. Please read this previous answer to a question from the affected area.

The  Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine), a disjunct stand (meaning "what are those trees doing here in Central Texas?"), gives the area the nickname "Lost Pines." This USDA Plant Profile Map shows the tree growing naturally in Bastrop, Fayette and Lee Counties. In our research, we found a number of sites that could be useful for those attempting to bring back the natural life in their area. Rather than try to condense them, we are going to list below the ones we thought had the most to say about your situation:

How-To Articles is Caring for your new native plants.

Climate change, forest management result in bigger, hotter fires.  

Forest Encyclopedia Network, also Fire Effects in Soil

From Purdue University Consumer Horticulture Wood Ash in the Garden we thought this quotation to be important in your planning:

"The largest component of wood ash (about 25 percent) is calcium carbonate, a common liming material that increases soil alkalinity. Wood ash has a very fine particle size, so it reacts rapidly and completely in the soil. Although small amounts of nutrients are applied with wood ash, the main effect is that of a liming agent.

Increasing the alkalinity of the soil does affect plant nutrition. Nutrients are most readily available to plants when the soil is slightly acidic. As soil alkalinity increases and the pH rises above 7.0, nutrients such as phosphorus, iron, boron, manganese, copper, zinc and potassium become chemically tied to the soil and less available for plant use."

Since the soils in Central Texas tend to more alkalinity anyway, you should keep in mind the effect of wood ash, if any was deposited onto your property, .

We want to make two suggestions. First, since you are doing reconstruction and we still have had no rain, it would be a good idea to delay any planting until next Spring, at least. Not only would it be difficult for anything to flourish without some soil moisture, but also construction equipment, either for clean-up or reconstruction is going to make it much harder for plants to survive.

The second suggestion is that you consider constructing more of a xeriscape landscape, using decomposed granite and rock for ground cover and paths, plant low water usage plants and constructing raised beds with amended soils for perennials, etc. From another Mr. Smarty Plants previous answer, here are links to information on raised beds:

"This link to Popular Mechanics tells how to construct raised beds, and this article from about.com has instructions for growing plants in the beds."

Bottom Line: Reconstruction and re-vegetating your area will be slow, but it will happen. Attention to the conditions, change in the amount of sunlight, and how the soil has been affected should guide any plant selections. It is thought that there have been Loblolly Pines in that area since the Pleistocene era; there have been fires before and the area has recovered. Go to our Recommended Species section, select Central Texas on the map, and you will get a list of 156 plants native to this part of the state. Each plant you might be interested in has a link to our webpage on that plant which will give you the growing conditions and soils that plant prefers.

 

From the Image Gallery


Loblolly pine
Pinus taeda

Loblolly pine
Pinus taeda

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Plants for a Austin thicket underlayer
July 25, 2014 - We live in Austin, west of 183. We are planning to put a thicket in our backyard, where there is no threat of deer. Anchoring the thicket are a clump of live oaks, a Texas persimmon, an Eve's Necklac...
view the full question and answer

Can Habiturf be planted by hydroseeding from Austin?
February 04, 2012 - We are thinking about seeding our lawn with HABITURF. Could you provide any input on whether HABITURF can be planted by hydroseeding? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Tree to replace Betula nigra (River birch) in Memphis
August 13, 2012 - HI Mr. Smarty Pants, I think I need to replace the river birch tree in my west-facing front yard in Memphis, TN. I have sun all day, but it gets really hot in the afternoon. The soil in my yar...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant native plants for Eagle Scout project in Urbandale IA
April 27, 2013 - Mr. Smarty Plants, My son is planning his Eagle Scout Project doing some landscaping for the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. The facility has asked him to use only plants native to Iowa. Can you su...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant grass with little need for mowing for Hill Country of Texas
November 17, 2011 - What grass would you recommend for the hill country of Texas that is drought tolerant and does not need frequent mowing?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center