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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 is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - May 05, 2011

From: Grapeland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: General Botany, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: East Texas Natives and Botanical History
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I am looking for flowers &/or flowering shrubs that are native to east Texas, especially that would have been in this area over 100 or more years ago.

ANSWER:

Mr SmartyPlants wasn’t around in those times so I can’t help you with direct personal experience.  On the other hand, I expect that any plant that is properly acclimated to an area has likely been there for thousands of years or perhaps a time that more closely relates to geologic time periods. 

That said, I think you can quite safely review our recommended species pages and expect that these species have been around quite a bit longer than 100 years.  Here is a link to the “Recommended Species” webpage.  From there, you can choose your region.  You could click on East Texas, or you could look at the lower portion of the webpage where you could choose either  Pineywoods or PostOak Savannah if you had one of those ecoregions specifically in mind.

As a crosscheck, each individual species record has a link to the USDA record where it notes the USDA symbol.  On the USDA website, they show a map down to county detail which shows whether that species is documented in the county and whether it is considered as native or introduced.

  I enjoyed researching your question.  Here’s another approach that can take you towards direct records that the species was documented somewhere around 100 years ago.  I found that the TexaState Historical Association has a searchable “Handbook of Texas Online”.  When I searched for “botanists”  I received a detailed list of the pioneer botanists of Texas.   Many of them worked as field botanists, and it’s likely that a serious historian could even locate their field records.  I’ve taken an easier route for this reply to you.  Almost all of them would name a few species after themselves.  So here are a few of these early botanists combined with their species which are also on the “East Texas” recommended list.

One of the earliest was Thomas Drummond (ca. 1790–1835).  He named a large number of species.  Among those, these species are listed as native to East Texas: Cooperia drummondii (Evening rain lily) and Cornus drummondii (Roughleaf dogwood).  I was interested in Phlox drummondii (Annual phlox); in it’s record it is indicated that it is now in England as an exotic species after Thomas Drummond brought seeds back from his expedition to Texas.

Notice the species name is a latinization of the botanists name.  Several species in Texas carry the names of  Charles Wright (1811–1885) [wrightii] and Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, (1801–1879)  [lindheimeri], but none of these are listed on the East Texas Native list. These two botanists are considered the next wave, following Drummond, exploring Texas flora.

However, Levi James Russell (1831–1908) lived in Bell County and has claimed the Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum (Texas bluebells).  The Texas Bluebell is a familiar native to East Texas.

 

From the Image Gallery


Hill country rain lily
Cooperia pedunculata

Annual phlox
Phlox drummondii

Roughleaf dogwood
Cornus drummondii

Texas bluebells
Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum

Texas bluebells
Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum

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