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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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Friday - February 17, 2012

From: Takoma Park, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Healthy native plants supporting local economy from Tacoma Park MD
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am collecting information on how healthy native plant communities can support the local economy. Do you think the Texas bluebonnets are a good example of this in Texas? For example, do you know many tourists come to Texas each spring to enjoy the display of bluebonnets and other native wildflowers there? Any information you have is appreciated,

ANSWER:

Economics is a little out of our field. Of course, Texans all are proud of our deserts, mountains, wide open spaces, pleasant towns and varied plant life. At the same time, many of the tourists visiting various sites are Texans themselves. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is not only happy to welcome tourists from all over the world, but is known for its botanical gardens displaying plants native to Central Texas, especially in their bloom times.

In our opinion, the cultivation and promotion of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow natively is our most important mission. Native plants that are already accustomed to the environment of an area by centuries of experience will consume less in water (important in a state now struggling with drought), chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides) that can be harmful to the environment and continue to absorb carbon into the soil, manufacture oxygen that is essential to life and support pollinators, wildlife and agriculture. In that respect, our message is important to any area in North America, which is our area of concern. Putting a per-person dollar value on that is quite beyond our mathematical skills.

In short, tourists won't readily go, nor will people be anxious to move to and live, in areas where there is a shortage of safe drinking water, chemicals in the soil leaching into our aquifers, hydrocarbons in the air and non-native invasive plants making previously pristine areas useless. Mr. Smarty Plants' job (loosely speaking, as we are nearly all volunteers) is to educate anyone we can get to listen to us on that mission. We are gardeners, although some of us (not this member of the Team) are highly educated in the field, but we all are on the same page in terms of protecting and, when possible, improving our environment. In the long run, doing this in Texas,or anywhere else, can have a tremendous positive impact on a local economy.

If you feel it would help you in your research, we can refer you to some websites that will give you more precise information on what we do.

Why Native Plants?

Wildflower Center Chronology

Wildflower Days

Carbon Footprint

Nature Tourism in the Lone Star State

We realize that we have told you more about what the Wildflower Center does than how many tourists we attract or what economic advantages we provide. Protecting the environment does not have a price.

 

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