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Landry Lockett, Thayne Montague, Cynthia McKenney, and Dick Auld

A survey instrument was designed to determine public opinion on water conservation, water conserving landscapes, the use of native plants in landscapes, home irrigation systems, and the performance of five Texas native plant species [pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa); prairie verbena (Verbena bipinnatifida); red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora); ceniza (Leucophyllum frutescens); and ruellia (Ruellia nudiflora)] grown in low water use landscapes in the semiarid Southwestern United States. On six occasions during the 1999 growing season, participants viewed landscapes and participated in a survey. Survey data indicate that over 90% of respondents thought water conservation was important to the state of Texas. A majority of participants however, believed water conserving landscapes to be expensive to maintain and not aesthetically pleasing. The survey revealed 79% of participants would use native plants if native plants conserved water, and 86% of participants would use native plants if native plants were attractive. Chi-square approximations revealed participant's opinions regarding water conservation and home irrigation systems were influenced by education level and amount of time they participated in weekly horticulture activities. In an open-ended question, participants indicated flowers and healthy leaves were characteristics indicating a plant was performing well. Throughout the year, species in flower received higher ratings than nonflowering species.

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June Wolfe III, J.M. Zajicek, and M.A. Hussey

Six native Texas and six introduced ornamental grass species were chosen for an evaluation of water use performance and aesthetic value under drought stress to identify material most appropriate for water conserving landscapes. Greenhouse and field experiments determined the overall performance of the grasses under drought conditions. A public survey evaluated the aesthetic value of investigated species. Greenhouse work determined that examination of total chlorophyll content was not a useful parameter for predicting drought stress. Water use and visual aesthetic decline rates were determined for all species in the greenhouse. On average, native and introduced species performed equally well. Imperata cylindrica exhibited the lowest rates of water use (by 92%) and visual decline (by 51%) in the greenhouse and was the most conservative water user in the field with lowest stomatal conductance (by 76%). The survey found that grasses were acceptable as ornamentals in the landscape and natives and introduced species equal in preference.