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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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Thursday - February 08, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Medicinal Plants
Title: Possibility of native plants as natural mosquito repellants
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Austin Texas and have what I would consider a mosquito infestation in my garden for most of the year. Are there native plants to this region that are proven to be naturally mosquito repellant?

ANSWER:

If you are looking for plants that repel mosquitoes from living in your garden, I am afraid you are out of luck. Ads for a plant called Citrosa (Pelargonium citrosum), described as a genetically engineered plant, claimed it was "guaranteed to repel" mosquitoes. It was found that simply as a plant growing in the ground it does not repel mosquitoes. It does offer some repellency (about 30-40% of that of the chemical repellent, DEET) if the leaves are crushed. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is also thought to be effective against mosquitoes; but again, it is the oil from the crushed leaves that does the job. Additionally, neither of these plants is native to Central Texas or North America. There is one plant native to far western Texas (El Paso and Hudspeth counties) called the Mosquito Plant (Agastache cana) that is said to repel mosquitoes; but once more, it is the oil of the plant rubbed on the skin that is an effective repellent.

Your best bet for ridding your garden of mosquitoes is to consider one of their breeding requirements—availability of water in which to lay their eggs—and follow the recommendations for ridding your garden of mosquito breeding sites in Mosquito Control in Your Neighborhood from the City of Austin Health and Human Services Department and Solid Waste Services Department.

 

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