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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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Thursday - August 10, 2006

From: Phenix , AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Overseeding native wildflower seeds as opposed to herbicides
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Greetings from Alabama, We would like to "roundup" approx 2 A and plant some wildflower (s) that would TAKE OVER. We have 20 A and over half is in mixed woods. Pine, oak, sweetgum, and ???. Do you have any suggestions? Are there any wildflowers that will return if we use pre-emergence fertilizer?

ANSWER:

You may have a misperception about the way nature works. Plants fill niches that provide both the opportunity and the conditions for success. The large-scale use of herbicides typically result in successful growth of what we generally consider to be weedy, undesirable species and less succesful development of more desirable wildflowers.

You asked about two different types of herbicides. Roundup is the tradename of an herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate. It is a contact herbicide which works on green, growing plants. Pre-emergent herbicides prevent germinating seeds from growing. Whether you use either, both or none of these herbicides will largely depend on what you are trying to control and what stage of growth it's in. Often it is possible to obtain the desired results without using any herbicides at all. The application of herbicides often results in disturbed conditions similar to tilling which provide the perfect conditions for most of the noxious weeds you will encounter.

It is often better to overseed with desirable wildflower species to provide the best opportunity for them to become established. A wildflower seed mix designed for your area will contain some species that will successfully become established - sometimes spectacularly so - others that will be less successful and a few that will fail completely. However, by overseeding you are far less likely to create a two-acre haven for cocklebur, beggarticks or rattlepod.

The article Wildflower Meadows can be found in the NPIN Native Plant Library.

 

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