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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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Sunday - July 24, 2005

From: Milan-Italy, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Alkalinity-tolerant grasses
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus/Mark Simmons

QUESTION:

Dear Sirs - Are you aware of any grass species that could survive in strongly alkaline soils (ph from 10 up to 12) Thanks a lot.

ANSWER:

Our focus and expertise is on plants native to North America and we know of no North American grasses that will grow on such extremely alkaline soils.

We did find a couple of grasses, one from Australia and one from New Zealand, that tolerate alkaline soils. Vetiver zizanioides, used in Australia for mine rehabilitation, is reported to be highly tolerant of extreme soil conditions including heavy metals and pH levels from 3.0 to 10.5. You can read more about this grass on the Vetiver Network webpage. Another grass reported to grow on strongly alkaline soils is Australopyrum calcis, a grass endemic to New Zealand.

With such extreme pH readings it sounds as if you might dealing with mine tailings or some other toxic waste site. If so, we can direct you to several sources that address this issue:

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Phytoremediation Research

U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Federal Remediation Technologies (FRTR): Phytoremediation

EPA and RTDF (Remediation Technologies Development Forum) Phytoremediation Bibliography

 

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