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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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Tuesday - May 15, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives
Title: Invasive plants in native plant area from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Why do invasive plants grow in native plant territory?

ANSWER:

Actually, some invasives are native, as well. Usually, invasiveness is controlled by the soil, climate or water being wrong for the non-native. However, plants don't necessarily grow where they belong, they grow where they can get away with it. If a non-native plant manages to get seeds in the ground where there are good conditions, it will grow aggressively, shading or crowding out the native plants around it. There is no natural barrier to keep non-natives nor invasives out of a territory previously dominated by native plants.

In the case of Bastard Cabbage, which we are hearing so much about, it is believed the non-native seeds sneaked in as part of an imported grass mix. When the grass seed was put in the ground, probably some of it blew away to contaminate another area right away, and the rest of the seeds grew into plants that quickly grew, flowered and seeded for still more. They grow quickly, are aggressive with long taproots that spread, and very low-growing flowering sprouts that can dodge being mowed. Read the linked article above to learn how that particular non-native invasive got going. The seeds germinate in late Fall and early Winter, and the early rosettes quickly cover the ground, shading out seeds of more desirable native flowers that were there before.

 

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