Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Saturday - October 31, 2009

From: Pflugerville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflower Center
Title: Grass at Wildflower Center with purple glow
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What is the clumping grass along the WFC meadow trail that has a seedhead resembling bermudagrass and a glow similar to purple three-awn when backlit by the sun. I saw it yesterday (Oct. 2) and wondered if it was Chloris verticillata.

ANSWER:

Although there is some Chloris verticillata (tumble windmill grass) growing in the meadow at the Wildflower Center, Mr. Smarty Plants thinks that most likely what you saw was King Ranch (KR) Bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum).  It is a native grass of Europe, North Africa and Asia and was introduced into the United States in the early 1900s, probably 1917 into California, for cattle food and erosion control.  You can read more about the history of its introduction in an answer to a previous question.  It is on the Texas Invasives list and you can read about how difficult it is to get rid of—that's why the Wildflower Center has plenty of it on its grounds.  According to Dr. Kelly Lyons of Trinity University in San Antonio, the Texas Department of Tranportation's seeding of the rights of way of Texas highways with KR bluestem to prevent erosion has crowded out many of the wildflowers growing along the roadways—those that were also planted by TxDOT. KR bluestem is agressive and tends to take over and create a monoculture.

Despite all its bad traits, its seed heads do produce a beautiful purple 'glow'.  These are quite evident along the roadside of MoPac on the way to the Wildflower Center.  Here are photos of KR bluestem.

 

More Wildflower Center Questions

Souce for Glass Mulch in Austin
September 02, 2015 - Is there a special reason that broken glass is used in the courtyard flower beds? It's beautiful, wondering where to purchase some.
view the full question and answer

Ball moss (Tallandsia recurvata), epiphyte on oaks at Wildflower Center
April 06, 2006 - I visited your center a couple weeks ago, was very impressed with the educational aspects. I noticed the epiphyte commonly growing in the oak trees, and also on the elm oak. Do you have the name of t...
view the full question and answer

Information on green roof demonstration site at Wildflower Center
March 10, 2006 - I visited your green roof demonstration site and am interested in putting a green roof on a structure. There seemed to be at least two layers of growing medium in the planters; one layer looked like r...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for pots for wedding in November
October 03, 2006 - Will any of the plants that are in your big plant sale be flowering in November? I am looking for plants that would do well in pots because I'd like to use them as center pieces at a wedding (in Aus...
view the full question and answer

Epiphyte growing on oak trees in Wildflower Center
June 16, 2006 - Thank you for your response to my question on what is the epiphyte growing on oak trees. I should have been more specific to say " the epiphyte growing on the oak trees around Lady Bird Johnson wi...
view the full question and answer

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