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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 - January 27, 2011

From: Portland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Are Texas wildflowers dying out from Portland, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am doing a school project on whether or not wildflowers are dying out in the state of Texas or not. I need to find a specialist who specializes on this subject. Could you help me??? Please contact me ASAP!!!

ANSWER:

We don't usually do things "ASAP" very well; our website says we attempt to answer questions within 3 to 4 weeks. However, since this is for a school project, we want to see if we can point you in the right direction to get some answers.

To begin with, there are fewer places where wildflowers can grow in Texas every year. This is due to habitat change, to development and urbanization, and sometimes to non-native invasive plants crowding out the area where the wildflowers originally grew. They are not "dying out" as from some insect or disease, they are being crowded out. But, trust us, they will be around for a long time if people just learn not to abuse them, and leave places where they can grow.

From the Dallas Morning News: Just as beautiful for less money, less work. This article has several good ideas on ways to encourage wildflowers to grow. In our How-To Articles, we have an article on Alternative to Collecting Wildflowers.

The advantage to wildflowers is that they are native to where they are being grown. They have already adapted through millions of years to growing in the soil, climate, rainfall and environment where we find them today. The wildflowers that grow in Texas will not necessarily grow in Wisconsin. In fact, the most popular Texas wildflower, Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) is endemic to Texas; that is, it does not grow naturally anywhere else. The insects, especially the pollinators, that visit these wildflowers do not hurt them, actually they are welcome and essential in propagating that plant.

How can we help to keep them from dying out?

1.  Plant them, but don't plant them just anywhere, plant them where they belong.

2.  Try to get rid of the invasive plants that crowd out and shade the lower-growing wildflowers, but not with herbicides-these will kill the wildflowers, too!

3.  Help others understand how important natives are in their gardens, and on the roadsides. One more How-To Article: Be Plantwise.

 

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