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

Friday - June 08, 2012

From: Angier, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Soils, Problem Plants
Title: Zinc tolerant plants for sunny area
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have a very high zinc soil in an all day sun area. Any suggestions as to what kind of flower can I grow successfully? Zone 8 Thank you

ANSWER:

Zinc is one of the micronutrients needed for successful plant growth.  However, concentrated levels of zinc can be detrimental to plant growth and, depending on the concentration of zinc, even result in the death of some plants.  Zinc is a natural occurrence in air, soil and water, but concentrated levels can occur from human activities such as waste products of industry and mining.  The information I can find about zinc tolerance in plants is related to phytoremediation of sites contaminated by heavy metals—including zinc.  Plants successful in phytoremediation are able to accumulate the heavy metals in their tissues, thus removing them from the soil. The plants are then harvested and disposed of.  In the course of these studies it has been determined that some plants are "accumulators" and take up high concentrations of heavy metals without a toxic effect. Other plants that grow in high concentrations of heavy metals turn out to be "excluders" and don't end up with high concentrations of heavy metals.  They have the ability to exclude the heavy metals from uptake and continue growing on the site.  For your purposes, however, you don't care which they do as long as they will grow on soils with high concentrations of zinc.  As far as I can determine no one has produced a list or a study of beautiful flowering plants (native or non-native cultivars) that grow well on high zinc concentrations.  Many of the studies have been carried out in Europe and Asia using plants native to those regions.   Most of the North American native plants that have successfully grown on high zinc concentrations are not those that are considered particularly beautiful, but I do have some recommendations for you for plants that are native to North Carolina:

GRASSES

Festuca rubra (Red fescue).  Here are photos.

Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)

Sporobolus indicus (Smut grass)

HERBACEOUS PLANTS

Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Annual ragweed).  Here are more photos and information.

Flaveria trinerva (threadleaf glowwort).  Here are photos and more information.

Xanthium strumarium (Rough cockleburr).  Here are more photos and information.

Solanum elaeagnifolium (Silverleaf nightshade)

Bidens alba (Common beggarticks).  Here are more photos and information.

Desmodium paniculatum (Panicled tick trefoil).  Here are more photos and information.

Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)

Solidago altissima (Tall goldenrod)

Tradescantia ohiensis (Bluejacket)

Sesbania herbacea (Bigpod sesbania)

The above plants were found in the following academic papers that could be available at a university near you:

Franco-Hernandez, M. O. et al. 2010.  Heavy metals concentration in plants growing on mine tailings in Central Mexico.  Bioresource Technology 101(11):3864-3869.

R. Carrillo González and M.C.A. González-Chávez.  2006.  Metal accumulation in wild plants surrounding mining wastes.  Environmental Pollution 144(1):84-92.  (A study carried out in the state of Zacatecas in Mexico).

Joonki Yoon et al.  2006.  Accumulation of Pb, Cu, and Zn in native plants growing on a contaminated Florida site.  Science of the Total Environment 368(2-3):456-464.

You can also read the answer to a previous question about phytoremediation of lead in soil and the answer to a general question about phytoremediation.

Additionally, you might like to contact the Harnett County Office of the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service.  You are likely not the only person in the area having problems growing plants on soils with high concentrations of zinc and they might have other recommendations for you.

 

From the Image Gallery


Tufted hairgrass
Deschampsia cespitosa

Rough cockleburr
Xanthium strumarium

Silverleaf nightshade
Solanum elaeagnifolium

Common beggarticks
Bidens alba

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Tall goldenrod
Solidago altissima

Ohio spiderwort
Tradescantia ohiensis

Bigpod sesbania
Sesbania herbacea

More Problem Plants Questions

Need help fighting grass burs in La Grange, TX.
January 22, 2013 - I have 4 acres of wildflowers planted in my front yard. Unfortunately, grassburs have crept in & I need to control them with a pre-emergent. Will this keep the wildflowers from blooming? Also, would l...
view the full question and answer

Cat eating yucca stalks in England
May 07, 2013 - Is it safe for my cat to eat yucca as she is being sick and its hard to stop her
view the full question and answer

What is the plant called wingspan?
September 21, 2014 - I have a lot of environmental allergies and saw a positive result for "wingspan" yet I cannot find ANY information online about that particular plant. I was told it's "tumbleweed" by the medical ...
view the full question and answer

Skin allergies; is Juniper the culprit in Simi Valley, CA?
July 21, 2012 - My husband and I have had terrible skin allergy problems this spring (for me it's been 3 years) and think it may be the juniper bushes outside our bedroom and kitchen windows. Is there a fast growin...
view the full question and answer

How to get rid of Phytolacca americana (American pokeweed)
October 02, 2013 - Mr. Smarty-Pants, I have pokeweed growing all over my backyard. I know this plant is poisonous, how do I get rid of it for good? Also, a broad leaf vine that is swallowing my trees whole.
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