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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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Friday - April 13, 2012

From: Round Mountain, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Clover Among the Bluebonnets in Round Mountain, Texas
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

I have a beautiful yard of bluebonnets, but mixed in with them are a tall clover that is hiding the flower's beauty and a shorter plant with clover-like leaves that produces burrs. Pulling is not an option due to the size of the crop. Is there anything that can be done to keep the clover and burs from showing up next year? Can I put down a pre-emergent after the bluebonnet seeds have germinated this fall, or will that impact future bluebonnet growth? Thanks.

ANSWER:

I'm not sure what the tall clover you describe is, but I'm pretty sure the shorter plant is bur clover. This obnoxious import is having a banner growth year here in central Texas and many areas are overrun with it.

Both bluebonnets and bur clover (Medicago spp.) are in the same family (Fabaceae) so they have a lot in common. You've already observed that they like to grow in the same area and that when one is having a good growth year, so is the other. This also means that a herbicide that is effective on bur clover will probably also get your bluebonnets.

Mr. Smarty Plants can't offer a nice, neat solution to your problem, but here are a couple of paths for you to think about:

Go ahead and apply a preemergent herbicide in late summer or early fall, then reseed bluebonnets a month or so later in the hope that the bur clover will be killed and that a new cop of bluebonnets will come up.

Be patient. Bluebonnets have been blooming aound here for thousands of years. Bur clover is a newcomer. My bet is that the bluebonnets will win in the long run.

If you decide to go the preemergent pesticide route, here are a couple of ideas

Here is an article from the Texas A&M Extension service that lists several preemergent herbicides that are effective in controlling clovers including bur clover.

Many gardeners, who prefer not to use synthetic herbicides, use corn glutem meal to control annual weeds. Here is an article from the University of Minnesota Extension Service about the use of corn meal gluten. 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

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