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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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

Tanglehead
Heteropogon contortus

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

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