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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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Tuesday - November 12, 2013

From: Garden Ridge, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: plant labels to indicate resistance to wildfire
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have a group of students researching plants that are more fire resistant. They have learned that keeping home landscaping around a structure will help reduce the risk of a structure catching fire in the case of a grass fire or wildfire. In their research they are needing to create an innovative solution to a real-world problem. Their idea is to create labels for plants that the average shopper could see to help them know if a plant is "firewise". Do you know if such a plant label system exists here in Texas?

ANSWER:

I'm assuming that you would like to create labels that could be used by nuserymen to show clients which plant species are most resistant to fire.  I have not seen that system used in Texas or elsewhere.  What nurseries and others are doing instead is making lists of fire-resistant plants.  Examples are lists compiled in various states and some lists for parts of Texas.  More information on fire-retardant plant choices is here.  The main characteristics of fire-resistant plants are that they must have a relatively high water content and have low levels of resins and volatile oils.  Deciduous plants are also mentioned often because their bare branches in winter are less likely to ignite than are species retaining  their foliage.

It does seem useful to have some type of label or decal attached to a plant's identification tag at the nursery.  Customers would immediately know without consulting a list which are fire-resistant species.  I encourage you to pursue this timely idea with some of the nurserymen in your area.

 

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