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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

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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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!

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Friday - April 24, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Wildlife Gardens, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Protecting plants from birds near bird feeder
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am happy to have several cardinal pairs living in my yard, but I need to discourage them from eating & destroying my purple heart planted under the huge cedar that holds my bird feeders. The cardinals bite beak-shaped chunks out of the purple leaves until nearly all of the leaves are gone. Any suggestions on how to discourage the cardinals from eating my plants?

ANSWER:

1. Move the plants or

2. Move the bird feeder

Okay, not funny. But, really, once a bird or animal has zeroed in on a plant he likes, they will continue to eat it. But, we frankly can't see what the attraction would be, maybe nesting material? A nice deep purple wall decoration in the baby bird nursery?  Tradescantia pallida cultivar "Purpurea." sometimes sold as "Purple Heart," is native to Mexico from Tamaulipas to Yucatan, and therefore not in our Native Plant Database. But from what we could find out, it doesn't look like the plant is in any danger of being wiped out by the birds; apparently, it is vigorous to the point of being extremely invasive in some cases, and just a bit of stem dropped on the ground will sprout. Even though it is non-native, if the plant will grow under Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper) (lots of plants won't) and you like the area for your bird feeder, we would say let things be. If the plant starts to fade away, we would be more likely to blame the shade from the cedar than the attacks from the birds.

 

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