En Espa—ol

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

Monday - September 24, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Grasses or Grass-like, Trees
Title: Non-native, and/or invasive bermudagrass, St. Augustine and Pistache from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our St. Augustine lawn died suddenly this summer from either chinch bugs or grub worms (or both?), and a multitude of weeds and native Bermuda have taken over the area. Now that the weather has cooled, we would like to re-sod. We need to kill the weeds and Bermuda, but we planted a young Pistache in one corner of the yard and do not want to damage or kill the tree during the process. Do you recommend an herbicide for the Bermuda and weeds? How far away should we stay from the tree? We assume we should remove the weeds and remaining sod from around the tree by hand.

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grownatively.

Since both St. Augustine and bermudagrass are non-native, we would recommend neither. Bermudagrass is one of the most invasive weeds of the South, and St. Augustine is a high-maintenance water guzzler. Not only that, but we wish you had not planted the Pistacia chinense (chinese pistache). Please read this Dave's Garden forum on the tree, particularly the 7 negative comments. Also, from Invasives.org, another article on the tree.

Now that we have criticized every plant you have mentioned (sorry, that's our job), we will try to answer the specific questions. If you have the St. Augustine because the lawn is in shade, there is not much native that we can suggest. Most native grasses require at least 5 to 6 hours of sun a day. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on solarization to get rid of bermudagrass. There are a couple problems with that: one is that it needs to be done in the heat of the summer and second is that it would be necessary to stop watering the St. Augustine if that is what you want to keep.

Here is another previous Mr. Smarty Plants question on replacing lawns with better, native choices.

Now, about the herbicides. The grasses are monocots, or narrow-leaf plants, and the tree is a dicot, or broad-leaf plant. You can buy monocot-specific herbicides that will kill the grasses and, theoretically, not harm broad-leaf plants. Theoretically. You can buy a dicot-specific herbicide to kill the broadleaf plants that will theoretically, ignore the grasses.  Theoretically. Or there are broad-spectrum herbicides that will melt the concrete. We don't like to use any herbicides because it's going to kill  something, it floats in the air,  goes where you don't want it and it's polluting.

If you are determined to resod St. Augustine, pulling out the bermudagrass and other weeds (and pulling them out, and pulling them out) is probably your only safe procedure. And when all the pistache seeds start sprouting in your yard and your neigbors's yards, and the football stadium, don't say we didn't warn you.

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Shade grasses for central Texas
November 16, 2014 - We are new to the area and bought a home this summer that has lots of shade in the very small backyard. The problem is that there was new sod laid in the backyard which now is 50% dead. We do not kno...
view the full question and answer

Distinguishing Bermuda grass from Buffalo grass
June 14, 2007 - Is Bermuda grass taking over my Buffalo grass lawn? I recently sodded a small area of Buffalo Grass 'Prairie' (last fall). It's doing beautifully, or so I think. There are stolons running and reach...
view the full question and answer

Cause of yellowing buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides)
June 07, 2008 - We are getting large yellow areas in our buffalo grass lawn and think this is probably due to grub worms. Are grub worms the likely culprit and if so, what is the best way to get rid of them? We don...
view the full question and answer

Mowable grass to grow under pecan trees in Houston, Texas.
September 07, 2010 - I read your answer on grasses that will grow under pecans, but Iím looking for a grass that will blend in a bit with the rest of our St. Augustine grass yard. Something I can mow. Our pecan trees are ...
view the full question and answer

Low height, drought tolerant grass for Central Texas
January 22, 2010 - What is the best drought tolerant grass for Central Texas that can be used as a low height lawn? I remember seeing a news account (Austin TV) about some UT research at the Wildflower Center that deve...
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