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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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Wednesday - March 14, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification
Title: Removing non-native plants appearing in Austin in early spring
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

In order to know which plants to keep and which to remove, is there a source to look up and identify common non-native plants that are seen in Austin about this time of the year (late winter, early Spring)?

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center specializes in native plants, and our expertise in non-natives is limited.  However, many of us pull them out of our gardens pretty regularly.  So here are a few suggestions.

Texas Invasives keeps a web site showing the invasive plants found in the state. Many of the listed plants are large and perennial, and the long list is unwieldy to browse through.  I have the feeling that you are referring to small "weeds" that suddenly appear in flower beds and lawns at this time of year.  Many but not all of these are non-natives that happen to grow very well in our area.  I recommend a list compiled by Texas A & M. It has the best images I know for identification.  Look down the list of Annual Broadleaf Weeds and examine photos of the following (note that photo ref. 1 is not functional):  Bur clover, Catchweed bedstraw, Common purslane, Ground spurge, Hedge parsley, Henbit, Scarlet gaura, Spiny sowthistle, Spurge (prostrate), Thistle (Malta star), and Wild lettuce. These are among the most common plants invading our flower beds and gardens right now.  Among those not shown on the A & M list are the following common natives: Plantago major (Common plantain) and similar species, Taraxacum officinale (Common dandelion), Vicia ludoviciana (Louisiana vetch), Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus (Smallflower desert-chicory), also called Texas dandelion, and Parietaria pensylvanica (Pennsylvania pellitory).  Images of these latter species are shown below.

I should mention an extremely invasive non-native that has overwhelmed the roadsides in Texas within just the past few years.  It is called Bastard cabbage, and is very difficult to erradicate.  If you happen to have that species, pull it up or cut it down quickly before it sets seeds.

I hope this limited information will be helpful to you.  Good luck in your gardening.

 

 

From the Image Gallery






Deer pea vetch
Vicia ludoviciana

Smallflower desert-chicory
Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus

Pennsylvania pellitory
Parietaria pensylvanica

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