QUESTION : I just purchased a red oak that is 3
inch in diameter. the nursery does not know what type of
red oak it is. I wanted a shumard red oak -- saw it in books.
It seems like every nursery I go to does not know exactly
which type of species the trees are. is that a problem?
my question is what should I do for it and any special care
I need to do. they plant it and guarantee for 1 year..
ANSWER : It is a problem if you are planning on a
Shumard red oak (Quercus shumardii) which can attain a height
of 85 feet and you get a Texas red oak (Quercus texana)
which will rarely get more than 35 feet tall. Perhaps you
are not visiting the right nurseries. I have trouble accepting
nurseries that cannot identify the plant material that they
My advice for you is to follow the instructions of the
nursery when they plant your tree and also get their guarantee
in writing. For general instructions on planting and care
of new trees see this International Society of Arboriculture
article on tree planting:http://www.ag.uiuc.edu/~isa/consumer/planting.html
QUESTION : We are students at Mason High School
in Mason, Texas. We want to do a science fair project dealing
with wildflowers and/or bluebonnets for our local fair,
but more importantly for competition at the international
level in Philadelphia this spring. Since we are in the heart
of the Texas Hill Country, we are interested in doing some
type of research on the beautiful wildflowers that are common
in our area. We contacted Doug Welsh who gave us this website
and your name as a possible mentor and advisor. We want
to do something that can be built upon for the next few
years as a science fair project, and we'd like to somehow
be connected to TAMU research, if possible. Can you help
us come up with a problem to work on? What do we do first?
Do you mind helping us? Can you give us direction with this
or do you have any suggestions as to where to go next? We
have contacted the Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, and
they sent us to Texas A&M University...which is how
we got where we are today. We'll be anxiously waiting for
your reply, hoping to be able to work with you on a wildflower/bluebonnet
ANSWER : Well, it seems as if the "buck stops
here" when it comes to wildflower research, doesn't
it?!? I am honored that my colleagues and partners?in?wildflowers
have "directed" you to me. So as not to disappoint
you, I do have a suggestion for a project ?? if you want
to try it. Very little has been done to identify the best
strain of rhizobium to be used to grow Lupinus texensis
(the hillcountry bluebonnet species). You can do a bit of
investigation about rhizobium and search the Internet for
available information before you undertake this effort.
I can give you a brief run?down on what is known and what
misinformation has been generated about rhizobium.
First of all, as you might know, rhizobium is the bacteria
which forms a synergistic (organisms living together producing
a mutual benefit for both) relationship with legumes (peas,
beans, bluebonnets) to take nitrogen out of the air and
enable legume plants to survive and thrive with little or
no artificial nitrogen. Dr. Wayne Mackay, Research Horticulturist
in Dallas, (Telephone: 972?231?5362) has worked with the
Big Bend bluebonnet (L. harvardii) and found that it uses
a different strain of rhizobium than does L. texensis (hillcountry
bluebonnet) to fix or take nitrogen from the air. This indicates
there are different strains of rhizobium which are most
efficient from species to species. There may be different
strains from region to region (from hillcountry to San Antonio
area). This could be investigated by collecting strains
from different regions by simply collecting soil?root nodules
from bluebonnet root zones in the spring. That could be
one aspect of the research. Dr. Mackay also finds that even
though some rhizobium produce nodulation, the nodulation
may not be actively functioning as nitrogen fixators ??
there is a simple test to determine the activity of the
Another aspect would be testing the available sources
of rhizobium on the market already to see which, if any,
are effective (causes active nodulation on bluebonnet roots
in non?fertilized growing areas or in container culture).
Rhizobium bacteria is being commercially produced and marketed
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
P. O. Box 2209
Grass Valley, California 95945
They might give you other sources of commercial rhizobium.
Rhizobium presently being marketed is for Lupine, alfalfa,
peas, beans, etc. None have been tested for effectiveness
on Texas bluebonnets. If you wanted to throw another variable
into the mix, you could ask these folks what they know about
mycorrihiza (another root micro?organism which enhances
mineral uptake) and its availability.
Dr. Mackay in Dallas has been working with Juan Gonzales,
world?renown rhizobium expert, at the University of Texas
at Dallas. Tel: 972?883?2526 e?mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would suggest you contact him as well as Dr. Mackay to
see if what I am proposing for your project is feasible.
He could also offer some techniques if he would.
The contribution of this effort would allow growers (gardeners
as well as commercial seed producers) of the Texas State
Flower to grow better plants with less inputs.
BEWARE that there has been much mis?information written
about the importance of rhizobium. Jean Andrews' first book
about bluebonnets had many incorrect statements about the
need for rhizobium ?? I think the second edition has "cleaned
up" some of the errors. In the first edition of the
book written by Jean Andrews called The Texas Bluebonnet,
there is a quote which reads "If you know how to scarify
seed, forget it in the case of bluebonnets except for small
flower beds. As a means of helping nature along, the Texas
Highway Department and the National Wildflower Research
Center do not, I repeat, do not recommend the process for
any of the state flowers of Texas. Getting the seed to germinate
is not the problem. Nodulation is the question. You could
get one thousand seeds to germinate but, if only twenty
are inoculated with Rhizobium (soil bacteria which attach
to roots of legumes such as bluebonnets and take nitrogen
from the air), only twenty are going to bloom. This failure
to form nodules is the basis for another bluebonnet misconception.
Many hold the belief that bluebonnets do not bloom the first
year because they have planted the seeds, watched them germinate
and grow into lush plants, but...no blooms. Nor will they
bloom the second year. In fact, they will never bloom unless
the seeds become inoculated with Rhizobium." This is
wildflower blaspheme and literary rubbish! If, in fact,
the Texas Highway Department and the National Wildflower
Research Center are making statements such as these, Lady
Bird had better get her some new folks! During the past
fifteen years millions of bluebonnet transplants have been
grown and sold in a completely sterile potting mixture with
NO, I repeat, NOT ONE Rhizobium bacterium added. The seed
was acid scarified with concentrated sulfuric acid before
planting which would have definitely destroyed any Rhizobium.
Yet all, I repeat, not some, but ALL of these transplants
as well as plants from hundreds of pounds of field?planted,
acid scarified seed??not treated with Rhizobium??have bloomed
profusely. Rhizobium is Nature's fertilizer (nitrogen) source
but if supplemental sources of fertilizer are available
in a planting medium, Rhizobium is unnecessary for bloom
and nodules will, in fact, not form even if seed are inoculated."
The "researchers" at the National Wildflower
Institute have conducted extensive projects trying to determine
the effects of rhizobium on the germination of bluebonnet
seed. Their results show a beneficial effect on germination
to bluebonnet seed and this information has been published
in scientific journals. NOW LADIES!!! the VERY first time
you quit thinking about the steps of seed growth and conclude
something as DUMB as that a root?associated organism such
as rhizobium has something to do with germination WHICH
MUST OCCUR BEFORE THE ROOT IS EVEN PRESENT, this old boy
will be off of this project before you can figure out where
I hope this has given you some ideas and if you want to
undertake this project.
QUESTION : What do you suggest to totally rid sand
burrs from a Bermuda grass lawn (ouch!!)?.
ANSWER :See the PLANTanswers article on grassbur
control which can be found at this web site:
article is too long to mail to you but contains everything
that you need to know to control your grassburs.
QUESTION :I planted a silver maple in my back yard
about four years ago. It has done okay but this year being
so hot the leaves turned and fell off in August. After the
rains in September It has completely leafed out again and
is really pretty. My question is how often have you seen
one leaf out again the same year. I came from Indiana where
they are common and have never seen this before.
ANSWER :There is more difference in South Texas and
Indiana than just the thousand miles ( ) between here and
there. You should get used to the fact that your tree will
probably defoliate early each year. Had we not had the rains
in September it would have remained dormant until next spring
when it would have started the cycle again. This inability
to support its leaves in the heat and dryness of a typical
San Antonio summer is one of the reasons why the big leafed
trees like the silver maple, cottonwood, sycamore and others
are not on our recommended tree lists. See the recommended
landscape plant list which can be found at this PLANTanswers
QUESTION : What makes a tomato turn red, especially,
when the tomato is removed from the vine? As a child, I
remember my grandfather and I stripping the vines in mid
to late Sept. and wrapping the tomatoes in newspaper and
putting them in our basement. Is it a " RED "
chlorophyll or trapping gases or temperature?
ANSWER :We know that the ripening process which culminates
in the red coloration is artificially initiated by the introduction
of the fruits' own natural ripening hormone 'ethylene'.
At this University of California?Davis web site you can
find much information about the physiology of the tomato:
And from the link to 'flowers and fruit' which takes you
to this web site:
And then 'pigment' will take you here:
You will find this: 'As the fruit matures the pigment changes
from green to orange to red. The first pigment change is
a fading of the green color due to the transformation of
chloroplasts into chromoplasts resulting in a decrease in
chlorophyll concentration. The initial increase in B?carotene
concentration results in the orange pigment. The final red
color is due to the subsequent high concentrations of lycopene.(Grierson
and Kader 1986)