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?


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


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.


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 Non-Natives Questions

Pruning non-native peach in Austin, TX.
June 18, 2015 - I planted two five gallon Texas Star peach trees last February but didn't have the nerve to prune them back to knee height. After having been convinced that this is a good thing to do, I'd like to k...
view the full question and answer

Firecracker plants not growing in Ft. Worth
June 09, 2010 - I live in Fort Worth, TX and last fall planted several firecracker plants. It's now June and they're not growing. How can I tell if they are still alive?
view the full question and answer

Distinguishing native Celastrus scandens from non-native C. Orbiculatus from Lexington MA
June 08, 2014 - Dear Mr. Plants, I maintain a wildflower garden with the Lexington Field and Garden Club in Lexington, Massachusetts. Every year, I pull up sprouts of Celastris orbiulatis. I want to plan...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native mimosas in Braintree MA
August 10, 2010 - I want to transplant some baby mimosa trees. Have tried in past and they just die.
view the full question and answer

Replacements for non-native purple fountain grass in Austin
September 26, 2009 - Hi-- Just found out that the purple fountain grass I bought (fortunately on sale) is a) not native and b)not perennial. Dang it! If I can find the pots I'm taking it back. I have a part-shade wel...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center