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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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Tuesday - June 19, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, User Comments
Title: Would like a "try instead of" list for non-native plants in Austin, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

It would be so helpful if, when asked about a non-native plant, you would do a "try instead of" list. I have about 45 plants to reseach from my landscaping firm, and it's wearing me out to try to find native alternatives for everything from boxwoods to lorepetalums! Thanks for all you do!

ANSWER:

That is a good idea, but it’s often easier said than done. This previous answer is an example of when it works.
The source of the information was the Native Plant Guide (pg 24) prepared by the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT)-Houston Chapter . It’s part of a program called NICE (Natives Instead of Common Exotics). NICE! is now a registered trademark owned by NPSOT which is headquartered in Boerne, TX. 
The Kerrville Chapter of NPSOT has produced the Blue Brochure  that contains lists of recommended native plants for landscaping in the hill country. By the way, the 32nd annual Native Plant Society Fall Symposium will be held in Kerrville in October. The Austin Chapter  is quite active, and holds its meetings at Wild Basin.

Another source of help is our Native Plant Database . It contain 7,239 species of native plants that can be searched by scientific name, common name or plant family. You can generate lists of plants by using the Recommended Species List option, or the Combination Search option. For example, if you wanted a list of evergreen shrubs suitable for a dry habitat in full sun, that were 6 to 12‘ tall, you could go to the Combination Search box and make the following selections; select Texas under State, shrub under Habit, and perennial under Duration.   Check sun under Light Requirement, dry under Soil moisture, and 6-12’ under height. Click the Submit combination Search button, and you will get a list of 29 native species that match these criteria. Clicking on the scientific name of each species will bring up its NPIN page that contains the characteristics of the plant, its growth requirements and, in most cases, photos.

You can also use the database to check out the characteristics of a plant that you find on other lists.

Although we don’t have an exhaustive “try instead of” list, Mr. Smarty Plants thinks that using a combination of these resources may make your job less exhausting.

 

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