En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Bluejacket
Tradescantia ohiensis

Bigpod sesbania
Sesbania herbacea

More Soils Questions

Source for information on Habiturf from Utopia, TX
February 25, 2014 - During a recent Central Texas Gardener TV show, someone from the Center mentioned that your Habiturf was going to be available as sod from someone in the San Antonio area this spring. Is that true an...
view the full question and answer

Failure of highbush blueberry plant to produce in New Hampshire
July 25, 2008 - One of my highbush blueberry plants completely stopped producing. What can I do to revive it?
view the full question and answer

Replacing hawthorn bush with muhly grass from Plano TX
April 10, 2014 - I am thinking of replacing a hawthorn bush with a muhly grass plant or two in an edged area with river rock cover in Plano, texas. It is the black soil and not a sandy loam. We have a sprinkler syst...
view the full question and answer

Weak stems on asters and ironweed from Woodbridge ON
June 06, 2012 - My question is in regards to plants flopping over. My smooth asters and ironweeds never seem to have strong stems. Is because the soil is too fertile or maybe too shallow?
view the full question and answer

Asphalt beneath surface of soil in Austin
June 03, 2013 - About 3-4 inches below the surface of our yard is what appears to be asphalt. It comes out in chunks a few inches across and it's all about 1.5 inches thick. I have no idea what it is; my best guess ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center