When in Drought

Though the seemingly generous amount of rain our city finally received in December and January provided much-needed relief from record-breaking aridity, Central Texas drought conditions are still very much a reality because of the lingering La Niña effect. In response to the many questions and problems that arose in response to the drought, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center launched a virtual Drought Resource Center just before Thanksgiving.

During the inferno that was last summer, the center’s Ask Mr. Smarty Plants online feature was inundated with drought-related questions. Damon Waitt, director of the Native Plant Information Network at the Wildflower Center, says that the intent was to collect all of the information in one place to make it easy for people to access. “We’ve got a repository of about six thousand questions that have been answered over the years,” he says. “And, of course, we’ve been getting a lot of other questions: Is my tree dead? How can I tell if my tree is dead? How do I water my tree during drought restrictions?

In addition to answers to a multitude of questions, the Drought Resource Center also provides informative articles on topics like rainwater harvesting, the use of mulch to protect plants and planting native grasses like HABITURF, the Center’s signature blend of three native drought-tolerant grasses that requires less watering and mowing than non-native seeds. The site also includes a detailed database of drought-resistant native plants across the United States and is searchable by state and various plant characteristics.

“This drought has really helped make the case for native plants being well adapted to the environmental extremes of Texas,” says Waitt. “The proof is in the pudding…or in the planting, if you will. A lot of the exotic ornamentals people have planted are getting wiped out, but the natives are still hanging in there.”

The same can be said for the human inhabitants who continue to stick it out. And with handy tools like the resource center, this summer, we’ll be much better prepared. —Veronica Meewes

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s Drought Resource Center can be found at wildflower.org/drought-resource-center.