Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Letter from the Director - Winter 2012
Photo by Marsha Miller.
REPLACING A LAWN IS NO FUN, even if it’s a pocket-size lawn like the one I have at my Central Austin home. You need a good reason to even think about doing it.
I had a good reason – as did most people in Austin. We had survived a record 2011 drought with only half our usual rainfall and 90 days where the temperature was over 100 degrees. The city went to Stage 2 drought restrictions, when outside watering is permitted only once a week. Stage 3 – no outside watering at all – was on the horizon.
Like many other Austin residents, I decided it was time to tear up the non-native grass at my house and put in a lawn that could survive our periodic climactic catastrophes. Luckily, the answer was close at hand. For nearly five years, starting with a grant from Walmart, the Wildflower Center worked to develop a native turfgrass that combines the features we like best in a lawn with the hardiness of Texas native grasses.
The result was HABITURF™, a mixture of native grasses that grow in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. HABITURF sounds almost too good to be true – it is green, dense and lush, and you can walk on it barefoot. It thrives with minimal watering and doesn’t require as much mowing as the non-native St. Augustine and bermudagrass lawns popular in Texas.
Better yet, the Wildflower Center makes money on every bag of seed sold in our store or by our seed company partner.
I live in an urban community where native plants are encouraged – in fact, one of our greenways features a tall-grass prairie that the Wildflower Center helped design. But the conventional St. Augustine sod installed by my homebuilder suffered in the heat and drought, creating a constant maintenance challenge and serious drain on my water bill. Now my native grass HABITURF lawn is doing very well with much less water and much less of my time and effort.
Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll learn about different experiences with our seed mix. I am very pleased with how well my native grass lawn established itself, how quickly it grew, and how green and thick it looks. I followed the directions from our staff and tilled the soil deeply after tearing up the old lawn, planted in the spring and watered generously at the beginning to give the grasses a good start. Some unexpected spring rains also helped.
If this sounds like a commercial, it is. Our HABITURF seed mix is a nearly perfect answer for homeowners who want to be environmentally sensitive yet don’t want to totally eliminate their lovely green lawns. It’s a perfect solution also for homeowners who watched their lawns die when the temperature went up and watering had to be curtailed. And it saves dollars, especially in cities where water rates are rising fast.
HABITURF is also an example of the practical, solutionoriented research we do here at the Wildflower Center, which is an organized research unit of The University of Texas at Austin. Whether it’s studying the impact of prescribed burns, determining the cooling effect green roofs have on a building or finding ways green roofs can conserve rainwater, our research results in real-life applications.
We’re harnessing the power of plants to make our world a better place.— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director