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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 - December 10, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Why do Turk's cap plants have such a variable growth habit?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

In visiting the Family Garden at the Lady Bird Wildflower Center yesterday (10-21-15,) I admired a large bunch of Turks Cap that had more blooms than I had ever seen on Turks Cap, and I've loved that plant for 60 years. I also noticed that they were taller than any I have seen. There were almost no leaves as large as they normally grow, and the stalks looked as though they had been stripped of many leaves. Was that deliberate and does it increase blooms? Is this a different kind? Do you feed them? They're between the Robb Family Pavillion and the place with the exercise equipment. Thanks!

ANSWER:

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap) is able to thrive in a wide variety of habitats.  When growing in a shady location it tends to be tall and have fewer blooms.  In a very sunny spot it is smaller in height, has smaller leaves and abundant blooms.  In part shade anything can happen!

As the season progresses during a dry year Turk's cap reduces its need for water by dropping some of its leaves.  And virtually all leaves are ultimately lost lin wlnter.  These factors are probably more influential in determining Turk's cap growth habit than its response to fertilizer.

Only the drummondii variety of Turk's cap is native to Central Texas, so what variations you see are primarily due to environmental effects.

 

 

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