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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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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!

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Thursday - July 07, 2011

From: Hillsboro, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rare or Endangered Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Wide appearance of Texas Bluebells in Hillsboro TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I thought Texas Bluebells were rare, endangered and liked wet places. So why, after at least a dozen years of not seeing any and during this horrible drought am I seeing them where I have never seen them before. I see lots for miles around me. Maybe that is what the last query was about.

ANSWER:

We are not sure which recent answer on bluebells you are referring to, but the most recent Mr. Smarty Plants question had to do with propagation of bluebells.

This USDA Plant Profile map shows that Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum (Texas bluebells) is native around Hill County. It also appears to grow in a few counties in the Texas Panhandle, which could hardly qualify as wet places. One reason that you don't see so many around ordinarily is from our webpage on this plant in our Native Plant Database:

"One reason Texas Bluebells are not as common now as they once were is due to their beauty. People have literally picked them from the wild in such numbers that the wild populations have been unable to reseed in their native habitat."

From The Austin Wildflower, read this article on The Texas Bluebell, which explores some of the different names of this plant, and agrees that it is "near extinction." This was, however, the only time we found any reference to this plant being rare or endangered. We have two thoughts on your seeing so many of them in your area. The first is that a plant called "Lisianthus" which is the old scientific name for Eustoma has been grown extensively in Japan for 70 years and is often sold in nurseries. Some of these may have been sowed or accidentally escaped from gardens, and now have a new career as weeds. The other thought is that we wonder if you are seeing some other blue flower perhaps, again, a non-native that has escaped. Pictures below of our "real" Texas Bluebell.

 

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