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Monday - November 26, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Laws
Title: Are drought-tolerant landscape plantings protected by Texas law?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I was told that Texas has a law in regards to drought tolerant natives and Homeowners Associations. Do you know what it states and how one can find a copy of it? I got a notice from my HOA saying that the entire front yard is overgrown and to trim/clean/remove weeds. My husband & I pruned numerous plants (including Passion flower vines; roses; Coral Bean; Maximillian Sunflowers; Ruellias and Orchid Trees. We thought the yard looked great and yet, we still got the same request from the HOA. Plants currently blooming are Morning Glory Tree; Golden Crownbeard; Maximillian Sunflower (in the back corner of the yard); Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens); Salvia coccinea; Wedelia; Frog Fruit; Heterotheca latifolia; Senna (Cassia); & Passionflower Vine on a trellis. (We pruned back the other Passionflower Vines that were growing in the yard. We thought that with all the pruning we had done, that the yard looked wonderful! Yet, we got another letter stating that the entire front yard was overgrown. I don't want to cut our Salvia coccineas down, as we still have Hummingbirds in the yard. We also have Cloudless Sulphur, Gulf Fritillary, Giant Swallowtail and Skipper Butterflies as we like to plant for the Butterflies and Hummingbirds. Is it true that there is a Texas law that hopefully restricts the power of HOA's where one grows native plants and plants that attract wildlife? Our yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat which was certified by the National Wildlife Federation.

ANSWER:

At its heart, your question is a legal one and we must recommend seeking legal advice for the issues you raise specifically involving conflicts with your HOA.

All wildflowers are not protected.  The only wildflowers that have legal protection are those listed as endangered species by the state or federal government.  It's not a very long list and chances are slim that any of those species would be found in in your landscape.  We know of no state law in Texas or elsewhere specifically protecting the use of water-conserving plants in landscapes.

Home-owner association agreements have been held by the courts to be very tightly-binding contracts and are considered by some to be more difficult to circumvent or change than city laws and ordinances.  Some home-owners in situations like yours have found at least some relief by negotiating with their HOA boards or even by becoming members of those boards and working within the system.

As Texas experiences more droughts and water-related issues, the public at large, municipalities and HOA's are SLOWLY beginning to understand the advantages of using native (or at least water-conserving) plants.  Education is the key and the lessons are often best taught locally by involved citizens like you.  To that end, local media is sometimes a helpful advocate.

An excellent information resource is the Wild Ones website.  Also, here is an excellent online article on developing local native plant protection ordinances.

 

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