Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
2 ratings

Tuesday - October 12, 2010

From: Buda, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Is Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) really native to the Texas Hill Country?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I had heard that the Ashe Juniper was not native to the hill country or even Texas. Is this true? What is their history? They sure make it hard for the elms and oaks to thrive. We have decided to remove them from our property.

ANSWER:

No, it isn't true—Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper) is native to the Texas Hill Country. What is the evidence that supports this?  It was certainly abundant in the Hill Country 165 years ago when Ferdinand Lindheimer, a botanist collecting and studying plants in Texas in 1845, described hills and ravines covered with cedars.  Moreover, the evidence goes even further back than the 1800s. Studies of Pleistocene deposits from Central Texas showed ancestral cedar pollen mixed with deciduous hardwoods dating as long ago as 125,000 years.  Those populations of ancestral cedars probably became mostly extinct in Central Texas during the Ice Age some 10,000 to 13,000 years ago, but remnant bands re-established themselves in Central Texas and have been here for thousands of years since.  You can read more about this in an article by Bill Ward, Mountain cedar—does it deserve such disdain? from the Native Plant Society of Texas.   

Before the 1900s when Texas was sparsely settled there were widespread tall grass prairies that often burned and the fires destroyed any young cedars that had managed to sprout there.  Additionally, when the tall grasses did not burn for several years, young cedars could not compete well with these grasses that overshadowed them. The reason Ashe juniper or mountain cedar is now a problem is because of the way the land is used.  Now the land is fenced and broken up into pastures that are often overgrazed.  Additionally, fires are not allowed to burn unchecked. This gives the cedars the opportunity to take over—and they do!

You might also like to check out a recent Mr. Smarty Plants question and answer about why little other vegetation grows underneath our Ashe junipers.

 

More Trees Questions

Small trees for property edge in Katy TX
April 16, 2012 - By deed restriction, I must have five trees on the side of my small suburban lot just west of Houston, TX. Due to the lot layout, the trunks are only about 8-10 feet from the house, with the trees abo...
view the full question and answer

Lifespan of Screwbean mesquite from Amargosa Valley NV
March 15, 2012 - I see the lifespan of the honey mesquite but not the screwbean (especially in the southern Nevada area - Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge area). What is their normal lifespan?
view the full question and answer

Are Ashe Junipers dying from mite damage in Austin?
August 08, 2011 - If Ashe Juniper needles are turning brown and dropping off the trees because of drought, and not disease, do the needles ever come back, or have the tree limbs died? What if the cause is mites, not ...
view the full question and answer

Problem with Chinese Pistache tree
September 01, 2014 - We have a gorgeous Chinese Pistache in our yard, about 25 feet tall. We bought it for its gorgeous fall color. The problem is that it has never turned color for us. All the other pistaches in the neig...
view the full question and answer

Fast-growing tree for Wilmington NC
May 22, 2010 - What kind of fast-growing tree would you plant in Wilmington, NC?
view the full question and answer

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