Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, Austin

April 5, 2012 by staff 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center, Austin, A quarter of a mile west of the gate of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in South Austin, invasive plant expert Damon Waitt steps on a small shovel.

He’s showing a TV news crew how to dig up a plant loaded with small but pretty yellow blooms on the side of the road.

As he pushes with his foot, the shovel handle breaks off.

Everybody laughs, including Waitt.

That, as it turns out, is the only thing funny about ba**ard cabbage.

“What happens,” Waitt said, “is that in the fall when these plants germinate, they form a rosette close to the ground, and that rosette actually takes up space and blocks out the bluebonnets that should be coming up in that area.”

The result is a slow-but-steady vanishing of Texas bluebonnets from wide swaths of the state.

“I’ve noticed,” Waitt went on, “over the last few years, large patches of bluebonnets succumbing to ba**ard cabbage. It is literally out competing the bluebonnet and our other Texas wildflowers for resources. This is not just an Austin problem; I’ve seen this everywhere. I just drove back from Port Aransas a couple of weekends ago. It was all along the highway from Port A to Austin.”

So how did this happen?

“We call it ba**ard cabbage,” Waitt explained. “It’s also known as Mediterranean Mustard. It’s actually native to the Mediterranean region: Northern Africa, Central Europe.

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