Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - July 17, 2012

From: Portal, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Can two species of Muhlenbergia be cross-pollinated from Portal AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Will Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Big Muhly) cross-pollinate with Muhlenbergia porteri (Bush Muhly)? I am attempting to restore the grasslands on my private property to a pre-1900 state. Bush Muhly was a dominant grass at that time but it is extremely difficult to obtain the seed in quantities that I can afford. There is still some native Bush Muhly present, but it is mostly found in conjunction with individual Tarbush and Mormon Tea plants. My elevation is 4,200 ft. and the annual rainfall is about 12" per year (10-15" range). I am also reseeding with Sideoats and Blue Grama.

ANSWER:

According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, Muhlenbergia porteri (Bush muhly) does grow natively in Cochise County AZ, about as center of the state as you can get. However, according to this USDA Plant Profile Map, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly) does not grow in Arizona, at all. How did you determine that Muhlenbergia lindheimeri would help repopulate your property to a pre-1900's state?

From Oregon State University, please read this article on Grass Growth and Regrowth for  Improved Management.

 Of particular interest in this article:

"Self Pollination and Cross Pollination Mechanics

Among grass species, sexual reproduction may occur with few restraints, however, the processes are often constrained by mechanisms which govern whether or not cross-breeding is possible. Some of these constraints are listed below.

  1. The species may be self incompatible.
  2. The grass may be dioecious, where the florets on the plant will be either male or female. Cross pollination is natural for these grasses.
  3. The grass may be monoecious where the florets are imperfect, having only one sex represented; male florets are born separately from the female as in maize and buffalo grass. Such plants are highly cross-pollinated.
  4. The grass may be dichogamous, such that the male and female organs mature at separate times. If anthesis (pollen shedding) occurs before the stigma is mature the grass is said to be protandrous. If the stigma is receptive before anthesis, the grass is protgynous. In either case, self-pollination is largely prevented.
  5. The grass floret may be cleistogamous where the lemma and palea remain closed until such time as anthers have released pollen. This is common to several of the cereal grains ensuring a high degree of self pollination and maintenance of varietal purity.
  6. The floret remains closed until anthers are about to rupture and stigmas are highly receptive. This system is called chasmogamy. It allows both cross and self pollination.
  7. Sexual reproduction may not be necessary for seed production if the grass species is apomictic (see previous discussion). Apomixis ensures exactness in propogation of the species."

Also from Oregon State University, Chromosome Number: The Implication of Cytogenetics. From that article:

"If one attempts to crossbreed different, but closely related grass species, there often will be varying levels of pairing among related chromosomes. This phenomenon is known as homeologous or imperfect pairing, and produces partial fertility in hybrids of closely related but diverging grass species (Jauhar, 1993). Hybrid plants can persist in a vegetative state if they are perennial, but most often they are partially or completely sterile. A technique commonly used by grass breeders to restore proper chromosome pairing and fertility is to treat fertilized embryos with the chemical colchicine, which promotes a doubling of the chromosome complement. In effect, the result is a perfectly pairing homologous chromosome set, allowing the hybrid to carry out normal meiosis."

On a brighter note, both Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama) (Plant Profile Map) and Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) (Plant Profile Map) are native to Cochise County, as well as Muhlenbergia porteri (Bush muhly). It would seem to us that repopulating your property with 3 native grasses would be by far the better course to take, especially in view of the many complications in cross pollination.

 

From the Image Gallery


Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Blue grama
Bouteloua gracilis

More Propagation Questions

Propagation of rain, oxblood, and copper lily bulbs
November 30, 2012 - I have Rain Lily, Oxblood Lily, and Copper Lily bulbs out of the ground, that are putting out some green growth. I would like to plant them soon. Is it okay to plant now and in December, or do I hav...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Eve's Necklace from Round Mountain TX
April 16, 2013 - We have dozens of small Eve's necklace plants coming up in our large yard. I would like to share them with my friends who aren't so lucky. Many years ago, I tried to transplant one, and it didn't...
view the full question and answer

Twist-leaf Yucca flowering in Burnet County, TX.
June 16, 2015 - I recently moved to Burnet County and our property is full of twist leaf yuccas which are now blooming, but not all are blooming. Why do some twist leaf yuccas bloom and others don't? Are they m...
view the full question and answer

Source for Texas Olive Tree from Tucson AZ
August 10, 2013 - Can one start a Texas Olive Tree from the olives it produces? How can you start one. I am having difficulty finding a nursery, but do see the trees around.
view the full question and answer

Reproduction of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
May 06, 2008 - What is the reproduction of a Purple Coneflower?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.