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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!

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Wednesday - April 04, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Managing Roadsides, Planting, Wildflowers
Title: Plantings of Castilleja in Texas
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am a graduate student interested in studying different species of paintbrush (Castilleja) in Texas. I understand that the Texas Dept of Transportation has been seeding wildflowers along Texas highways for quite some time. I would like to know if there are records on (or how I might find out) what flowers specifically have been seeded, if grass species are included, the sources of these seeds, and what roadways have been seeded. One question in particular, how far west has Castilleja indivisa been seeded?

ANSWER:

You are correct that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is responsible for seeding and maintaining wildflowers along the Texas Highways. From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"The responsible agency on roadside plants such as this is the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDot). Here are their Vegetation Management Guidelines."

This agency has a website on Wildflowers that will give you some information, and even has a hotline phone number. Whoever answers the phone probably can't answer your specific questions, but might be able to refer you to a website or some other material that could help.

So, from our own resources, let's see what we can tell you. If you go to our Native Plant Database and search on "Castilleja" (the genus for paintbrush), you will get 54 possibilities. You can follow any or all of the plant links to get more information. We have chosen Castilleja indivisa (Entireleaf indian paintbrush), Castilleja coccinea (Scarlet paintbrush) and Castilleja lutescens (Stiff yellow indian paintbrush) as examples of the many different species of Castilleja. You probably already know that the paintbrush is hemiparasitic, requiring access to a plant, such as bluebonnets or grasses, from which it can extract nitrogen.

We understand that TxDot started doing these roadside plantings in about 1917, before the computer or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center came into being. Possibly someone was making pencilled notes of what was planted where, and possibly not. Ditto on whether those notes survived or were transcribed to more permanent records. We don't know, but we hope you can get the information you need.

We also can't tell you how far west Castilleja indivisa (Entireleaf indian paintbrush) has been seeded, but you can go to the bottom of the page on any plant in our Database, and clink on the link to USDA Plant Profiles for that plant and get a map of where it is known to grow. Following that route to the Plant Profile map for indivisa, we see that it grows from East Texas to a line  pretty well straight down through Central Texas, and one lonely county (Gaines) in the Panhandle.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas indian paintbrush
Castilleja indivisa

Scarlet paintbrush
Castilleja coccinea

Stiff yellow indian paintbrush
Castilleja lutescens

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