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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - August 28, 2012

From: Boerne, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Erosion Control, Cacti and Succulents, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills & Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area to be thick because my house would overlook the highway if all trees are removed. The are is about two acres so something that would grow from seed would be best otherwise it would cost a fortune.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is a bit confused. I have read the question several times, and at first I thought you were asking what to plant that would out- compete the cedar and thus replace it. That would be an unlikely scenario, so now I’m thinking you want something to prevent erosion after the cedar is removed. It will be a while before you have something as thick as the cedar that is presently there.

Native grasses are our usual recommendation for erosion control because of their fibrous root system. Let’s go to our Native Plant Database to see if we can find some plants for the job. Using the Combination Search box, select Texas under State, grass/grass-like under Habit, and perennial under Duration. Check sun under Light requirement and dry under Soil moisture. Click on the Submit Combination Search button, and you will get a  list of 57 native grasses for Texas landscapes. Clicking  on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page which contains a description of the plant, the growth characteristics and requirements, and in most cases images. As you check out each plant, you can note its size and other features.

You can repeat the search and get different lists by changing your selections. For example, if you change your selection under Habit and leave all of your other selections the same, the following lists will result. If you select shrub under Habit, you will get a list of 89 shrubs, change to tree and you get 72 tree species, and change to cactus/succulent to get 72 species of cactus and agaves.

Mr. Smarty Plants tried this, and here are some possibilities. You wouldn't want to plant all of these, but you do have some options.

 Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalo grass)

 Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Several of the gramma grasses

 Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama),      Bouteloua eriopoda (Black grama)

 Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama),                    Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy grama)

 Bouteloua rigidiseta (Texas grama)


 Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly)  

 Dasylirion texanum (Texas sotol) 

 Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista)

Some scattered shrubs and trees to add interest

 Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo) 

 Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree) 

 Leucaena retusa (Goldenball leadtree)

 Rhus lanceolata (Prairie flameleaf sumac)  could be used to screen the road from your house.

The grasses will grow from seed, but the shrubs and trees will probably need to come from nursery stock. Using our Suppliers Directory can help you find businesses that sell these products.

As you probably know, there are differing opinions about the removal of cedar in the hill country. Below are three links with views about this topic.

 NPSOT

 Sierra Club

 The Cedar Tree

 

From the Image Gallery


Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Hairy grama
Bouteloua hirsuta

Lindheimer's muhly
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

Texas sotol
Dasylirion texanum

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Cenizo
Leucophyllum frutescens

Anacacho orchid tree
Bauhinia lunarioides

Goldenball leadtree
Leucaena retusa

Prairie flameleaf sumac
Rhus lanceolata

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