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Friday - September 24, 2010

From: Flower Mound, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Are These Plants Natives for Flower Mound, Texas?
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus


We are having our flower beds reworked and these are the plants that the company is recommending to plant. I would like to know if these plants are native to our area:pink muhly grass, lythrum, loropetalum, drift roses, daylily Stella de oro,abelia madigras.


I’m not sure if you just want to know if the plants are native to your area or if you would like to find plants that are native to your area.  And you may want to know if the plants will grow for you much like a native.  So I’ll try to tell you what I know. 

Mr. Smarty Plants is trained to tell you about natives so I’ll start by showing you a list of native plants recommended for your area.  I got this by going to the Explore Plants Tab on the LBJWC website,  and then to Explore Plants in the list and selecting North-Central Texas.  You can use the sidebar to further narrow you choices.  For example, you can look for grasses only or for plants that will bloom at the same time so you can figure out good plant combinations. And you may see a plant you would like to substitute for one on your current list. 

To see if your plant is a native, I’ll put the common name into the database.  This may or may not tell me if the plant is a native as the common name you gave me may not be one of the ones we have in our database. But, you can get the scientific name from your company and check by that.  That will be the definitive name. 

Pink Muhley grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris is a native grass. Today I was at a workshop for coastal prairie native plants and found this is one of the indicator plants for the coastal prairie.  It likes sandy soil and lots of water, both of which is not available in Flower Mound.  According to the USDA Texas County Distribution Map for this plant, it doesn’t grow naturally in your area.

If you want a low-water, carefree garden, you might want to substitute  Muhlenbergia lindheimeri, Lindheimer’s  (Big) Muhley which is one of the grasses recommended for your area.  In gardens that get watered, I have seen the two species used together with great effect, either as a double layer hedge or with one or more big muhleys in the center and the  Pink Muhley around the edges at least two plants deep.  And big muhley is being used as a substitute for pampas grass so is pretty dramatic alone.

And there are thirteen more species of grass on the recommended list, including our state grass, sideoats grama.  Several of these work great mixed with wildflowers, as edges to paths, or as specimen plants. And a group planting of little bluestem makes a huge show in the fall when it turns a lovely rusty color.

Lythrum is a genus of plants that contains exotic, invasive species, such as Purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria as well as the five natives found in Texas.  So be sure and find out the scientific name of the plant they are suggesting.

Loropetalum- This is probably Chinese witch hazel (also known as fringe flower), Loropetalum chinense - white-flowering variety up to 3.7 m tall, pink-flowering variety up to 1.5 m t and is not a native.  I often see the pink-flowering variety grown in Houston. This doesn’t prefer your growing conditions but will probably live there.  It is also not an invasive.   Our native cousin of this plant is Hamamelis virginiana witch hazel, American witch hazel.  You can visit the Texas Discovery Gardens in Dallas to see it. I used to love to find this blooming in the late fall and winter while hiking in the Ouchita Mountains in Arkansas. And this is the plant from which witch hazel is made.

Drift roses are not native. “Wait, though, let me get this Smarty Plants hat off…..”  I love roses but hate the ones that need lots of chemicals to survive.  Texas A&M has a list of Earth-Kind Plants. I don’t see the Drift Roses  on the list but expect they will make it soon.  Here is another article about their disease resistance and hardiness. So you should be able to grow them without having to repeatedly spray them with chemicals.

Hemerocallis 'Stella d’oro' is not a native but is a miniature re-blooming daylily.  Daylilies in general are quite hardy and disease free are also are very drought resistant.  My daughter has some Stellas that she got from a friend in north Louisiana, took to Massachusetts on an airplane in a plastic zip-lock bag inside her suitcase where they grew for two years and were divided again, before we dug them up, hauled them to the Texas Hill Country and then grew them in pots for two years. Now they are again growing in her garden, having multiplied several times.  So while not native, they will grow as easily as natives.

Abelia madigras is a little confusing to me.  Could this be Abelia x 'Mardi Gras' which has variegated leaves? It needs a fertile, humus-rich, well drained soil so sounds like it will need special soil amendments and care. But there are no abelias that are natives, as far as I could find. Most of the some 150 species come from Japan, China, or Mexico.  Since they are in the honeysuckle family, you might want to substitute a native relative:

Lonicera sempervirens L.coral honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle, woodbine  is a wonderful vine with coral flowers. .This looks great on a big trellis, pillar, or arbor. It also brings in hummingbirds and butterflies.  

In the future, you can use the following three sites to check on whether your plants are native or not and invasive or not:

Invasive Plants Database

Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Database

United States Department of Agriculture Database

Besides just looking up plants, you can find lots of interesting information to help you plan a plant community that fits your property, and allows you to help wildlife while saving you the time, energy, chemicals, and water that many non-natives will require.

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri




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