Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - June 07, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Why aren't the Caesalpinia species in the Native Plant Database
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Why doesn't the Wildflower Center list Caesalpinia in its plant database? I grow 3 species in my garden with no coddling: C. mexicana, C. gilliesii, and C. pulcherrima. I understand that the latter 2 qualify as exotic to Texas, although they grow well in Austin, tolerate heat and drought, provide nectar to pollinators, and do not spread aggressively. However, C. mexicana should qualify as a Texas native. It has proven root hardy in Austin since 2000 -- including some devastating freezes. It seems worthy of mention in your database.

ANSWER:

The question of nativity is one that is often posed to Mr. Smarty Plants.  We receive questions about specific plants and also the more general question of how "native" is defined.  For the second question, our definition is a plant is native to an area that evolved or arrived in that area without the assistance of man. 

This issue is very important to us since, by institutional policy, our research is limited to those plant species native to North America north of Mexico.  Plant species that are native to Mexico but nowhere in the United States are not included in our research and thus, not in the Native Plant Database

The Caesalpinia species are certainly beautiful plants and some do very well in the Austin area.  Caesalpinia pulcherrima is native to the West Indies and tropical America.  Caesalpinia gilliesii is native to South America.  Caesalpinia mexicana is native to Mexico and according to a some references also occurs naturally in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  If that were the case, Caesalpinia mexicana would qualify for inclusion in our database.

Caesalpinia mexicana is common in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in landscapes.  However, after consulting with botanists who are intimately familiar with the native flora of south Texas, we believe that C. mexicana is not a natural constituent of that flora.  If we find compelling evidence to the contrary sometime in the future, we will happily add that species to our lists of native species.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Non-native Indian Hawthorn and Abelia resistance to deer from Ackerman MS
January 16, 2010 - I recently landscaped my yard. I have a large variety of bushes and trees. They have been planted for about a month. Yesterday, while out in the yard, I noticed that about half of my Indian hawthorn...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of potted blue-green cypress
July 26, 2008 - I received a small 14" potted blue-green cypress for Christmas 2007. Kept it in a bright window, not direct sun. It was doing great until two weeks ago when it started turning brown from the center. ...
view the full question and answer

Cuttings from non-native weeping willow in California
October 01, 2008 - I have a large area to plant, I have a flourishing Weeping Willow and would like to harvest cuttings from it to start new trees. What is the best time of year for this in Central California?
view the full question and answer

Native plant to replace invasive non-native nandina in Houston
February 28, 2010 - I'm just now finding out that Nandinas are an invasive species from our local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas. I have three of them in my front yard and want to replace them. Can you sug...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting bamboo
July 29, 2008 - To transplant bamboo from one place to another, do you dig the plant up or do you get a cutting, put it in water and then root the plant?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.