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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 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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Monday - May 21, 2012

From: Ashmore, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Which plants are resistant to dog urine in Ashmore, IL??
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Which native plants are resistant to dogs urinating on them?

ANSWER:

Mr Smarty Plants wasn’t aware that this was such a problem, but he doesn’t have a dog. Checking on the internet reveals numerous articles about yellow spots on the lawn and wilted plants that are tied into dog behavior, diet and physiology, and gender issues.

Here are three links that look at this issue from the doggie/owner perspective. Some of the information is conflicting, but they make interesting reading.

   aggie-horticulture

   drsfostersmith.com

   peteducation.com

Let’s start with dog urine. Dog urine, as well as the urine of most all mammals, contains urea which is a waste product of protein metabolism. It is removed from the blood and concentrated by the kidneys, and excreted along with other salts via the urine. Urea is a nitrogen compound  that, in the soil, is converted to various  molecules and ions: ammonium carbonate, ammonium ion, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Nitrates are the principal form of nitrogen that is used by plants. A urinating dog causes a sudden occurrence of these chemicals in the soil in high concentration and creates a hypertonic environment that causes the plant cells to lose water and die. This is somewhat analogous to spilling a handful of fertilizer granules from your spreader onto your lawn. One remedy is to quickly add water to the spot in order to dilute the molecules and prevent the damage, however with dog urine, the practicality of this is questionable.

Another approach is to find plants that can tolerate high salt concentrations. These are often plants close to the seashore or in arid habitats, but some plants in the northern US where roads are salted in the winter can fit into this category.
Here are some links for salt resistant plants that may prove helpful:
   allexperts.com     (grasses)

   mortonarboretum.org

   ncsu.edu

After you find some plant prospects, check them out in the Native Plant Database to learn about their characteristics and growth requirements, and see some photos.



 

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