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  • Author or Editor: John Lambrinos x
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Efficient water use in urban landscapes is a common objective throughout the western United States. Vegetative species promoted for their drought tolerance characteristics are often included in landscapes designed for resource conservation. However, water requirements of most common landscape species have not been quantified. This is especially true for xerophytic species. This lack of landscape plant water requirement data is a significant constraint on the design of efficient irrigation systems and management practices affecting urban landscape water use. Current irrigation practices often fail to consider the unique physiology of xerophytic species, and irrigation scheduling models may not be appropriate for xeric landscapes using xerophytic vegetation as the primary method of reducing water use. This work describes the seasonal patterns of growth and xylem water status for four regionally native xeric shrub species planted in an unirrigated urban landscape in the semi-arid environment of central Oregon. The four species (Artemisia tridentata, Holodiscus microphyllus, Ericameria nauseosa, and Ribes cereum) exhibited substantial growth over the course of 18 months without irrigation in a heavily modified urban soil profile. Water potential of the four species was strongly correlated with surface (10 cm) soil moisture (r ≥ 0.90), less so with reference monthly evapotranspiration (r ≤ 0.55), and only weakly with water vapor deficit (r ≤ 0.22). In A. tridentata and H. microphyllus, xylem water potential became more negative during the growing season and tracked the seasonal decline in soil moisture. In contrast, the xylem water potential of E. nauseosa and R. cereum tracked soil moisture early in the season but became less responsive to soil moisture in the driest months, suggesting different drought adaptation strategies in these species. Three of the four species showed no visual signs of drought stress and maintained acceptable aesthetics even as soil moisture decreased to less than 10%. However, R. cereum exhibited a drought dormancy strategy that made it less aesthetically desirable. These results suggest that extreme xerophytic shrubs provide an opportunity for significant reductions in water use in urban landscapes.

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Extensive green roofs are a challenging environment for most plants, and this has typically limited the available plant palette. However, some functional goals for green roofs such as wildlife habitat require a broader spectrum of plant species from which to choose. In addition, pronounced seasonality in rainfall is a common climatic trait throughout much of the world; yet, few studies have evaluated green roof plant selections or the need for supplemental irrigation in a seasonally dry climate. In a field trial conducted in the Pacific northwestern United States, we evaluated the performance of eight taxa during establishment and under three different water management regimes post establishment: 1) non-irrigated; 2) irrigation based on green roof–specific water conservation guidelines for Portland, OR; or 3) the minimum irrigation required to maintain good plant condition. Plants were regionally available and represented a range of growth forms (succulents, shrubs, grasses, bulbs, and rhizomes) and potential functional attributes (habitat quality, aesthetic quality, and stormwater management proficiency). All eight species had generally high survival over the establishment year, although hardy iceplant (Delosperma cooperi) and common woolly sunflower (Eriophyllum lanatum var. lanatum) experienced some overwinter mortality. Species differed in the timing and absolute amount of growth during establishment. However, when the strong effect of initial size on growth was taken into account using analysis of covariance, there were no remaining differences between species in the relative magnitude of growth during establishment. During the summer following establishment, irrigation regime had significant effects on survival and growth, but these varied across taxa. Irrigation had no effect on survival or growth of the succulents hardy iceplant and ‘Cape Blanco’ broadleaf stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium) and the bulb small camas (Camassia quamash). For the other taxa, plant survival and growth generally decreased with decreasing irrigation and many species did not survive at all without irrigation. Several species, particularly the grass roemer's fescue (Festuca idahoensis var. roemeri) and the shrub ‘Lasithi’ cretan rockrose (Cistus creticus ssp. creticus) suffered aesthetically under low irrigation, partly reflecting adaptive responses to drought stress. Weed pressure was high on bare substrate and was enhanced by irrigation, but weed pressure was negligible following canopy closure across all water regimes. These results suggest that succulents, bulbs, and rhizotomous forbs have potential for use on extensive green roofs in seasonally dry climates even without supplemental irrigation. Designing extensive roofs composed of more diverse growth forms will likely require some amount of supplemental irrigation. This study highlights the need to design context-specific green roofs that match appropriate plant selections with explicit functional goals and management plans. This will improve function and reduce the overall costs associated with maintenance.

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