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

Thursday - May 16, 2013

From: Lake Jackson, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native alternative to Japanese grass from Lake Jackson TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Is there a native alternative to Little Kitten maiden grass? I was asked to comment on a plan and don't want them to introduce another Japanese plant into our local habitat.


Before we could answer your question we first had to determine what the non-native grass is to which you refer. Turns out it is Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Kitten' which is, indeed, native to eastern Asia. It is a member of the Poaceae (grass) family, and is referred to as a "blooming grass." What it is not, as you have already pointed out, is native to South Texas, in the area of Brazoria County.

Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow naturally, we are anxious to find some natives for you to propose as alternatives. These are all members of the Poaceae family and grow in or near Brazoria County. You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn its expected mature size, growing conditions, water needs, preferred soil, etc. Since they are native to your area, they are much more likely to do well in your climate, soils and rainfall than grasses from Asia.

Chloris virgata (Feather fingergrass) - 0 - 1 ft. tall

Heteropogon contortus (Tanglehead) - 0 - 1 ft. tall

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) -  3 to 6 ft. tall

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) - 3 to 6 ft. tall


From the Image Gallery

Feather fingergrass
Chloris virgata

Heteropogon contortus

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Purchase sources of Buffalograss from Corpus Christi TX
March 17, 2012 - I've heard a lot of good things about Buffalograss, but no one in my area seems to carry it. One grower actually told me it didn't grow well here and recommended St. Augustine Floratam instead. Is ...
view the full question and answer

Stabilizing a shale slope in Virginia
April 08, 2009 - I have family members who recently built a new home in Virginia. The site required extensive excavation resulting in a large 30 foot, nearly vertical, shale wall behind the house. They now want to r...
view the full question and answer

Short or mowable plant for walkway
June 03, 2008 - I'd like a short and/or mowable plant to use as a walkway in and around a vegetable garden in upstate NY. I was planning on clover, but I want to use a native plant if possible. The native clovers ...
view the full question and answer

Best time to plant wetland plants in NY
April 19, 2010 - Hello Mr. Smarty Plants - I'm working on a fresh water, shoreline wetland creation project in New York State. I've created two zones of native wetland plantings, an emergent shallow marsh zone ...
view the full question and answer

Controlling weeds in Buffalograss in Pflugerville, TX
September 26, 2009 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, After a visit to the wildflower center a few years ago, my husband and I decided to do buffalo grass from sod in our new house. We love the way it looks, but I've been neglec...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center