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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

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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Monday - December 12, 2011

From: Aurora, IL
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany
Title: Science Fair Question
Answered by: Anne Ruggles

QUESTION:

Dear Mr Smarty Plants, I'm working on a project for the science fair and I need to find a plant that can survive in all climates in order for my experiment to work. What plant should I use? I hope you can answer my question. Thank you for your time Sincerely Julie

ANSWER:

It may be tricky finding a native species that can grow under varying light, soil moisture, and temperature conditions, AND that you can propagate quickly especially at this time of the year (unless you are planning for next year’s Science Fair). Given that we will try to direct you to some sources.

1. Rudbeckia hirta   Black-eyed Susan is an annual herb native to Illinois that can grow in direct sun (6+ hrs/ day), part shade ((2-6 hrs/ day), and shade (2 or fewer hr/ day); and grows under dry, moist, or wet soil moisture conditions. It is a biennial plant thus does not flower the first year. This is a native plant that is fairly widely cultivated, thus seed is available.

The Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service has a list of local sources for wild plant seeds.

2. Chamaecrista fasciculate   Greene Partridge Pea is an annual herb native to Illinois that grows in sun or part-shade and under dry or moist soil conditions. This is also a native plant that is cultivated, so you should be able to find seeds.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has a very nice on-line resource that will let you enter the characteristics you are searching for and will point you to species that meet those criteria. You might also consider calling or visiting the Chicago Botanical Garden and asking them for direction to native plants that meet your criteria and for which you can find seeds or transplants.

If you cannot find a suitable native plant you might have to consider a non-native cultivar.

Good luck on your project.

 

From the Image Gallery


Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Black-eyed susan
Rudbeckia hirta

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata

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