Mulberry Meyhem, the last deathly gasp of Frey Prairie, LSU Poster interview, Advocate news article and a crazy-cool pine prairie planting in Pineville

Its been an amazing week in the life of yours truly. I keep pinchiing myself thinking its a crazy dream… Its been a month and a half of nonstop seed collecting. Since October 1, its rained maybe twice on two days and I have been taking advantage of the dry. We have been able to manage gathering from some really wonderful prairie sites this year. We are extremely grateful for this.

Also, I am grateful that my friend, colleague, mentor, fellow prairie dude, Dr. Charles Allen, who had heart surgery Thursday, has made a progressively positive recovery so far. I talked to him today for the first time since, and he seemed totally himself. First thing he asked was “how’d it go at the Mulberry Mayhem?”. The general always worries about the battle. Go Charles!!!! His daughter Tanya wrote a note and said that when he arrived at the hospital ready for surgery, the Dr. asked him “what brought you here today, Dr. Allen” and he spouted back, “the car”. That’s the Charles Allen I know.

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above, Dr. Charles M. Allen points out Drosera intermedia at the Crosby, Hillside Bog field trip, Crosby Arboretum satellite property, Harrison County, Mississippi, in April 2013

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God breathes life into Adam, Sistine Chapel

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See you out on the prairie soon, Doc. And put some clothes on.

Cajun Prairie Society troops manned their battle stations yesterday and caused some mayhem amongst the White Mulberry trees at the Cajun Prairie Society’s Northwest property on East Bacciochi Avenue. The really cool thing about this is that all who showed, totally abhor herbicides and all that they stand for, but because they all love prairie so much, they donned their gear and stepped off the abyss.

Where the mulberry infestation is so particularly troublesome is on this two acre property (its a mitigation bank property) that is managed by the Cajun Prairie Society. We have attempted to restore it to some degree in the past but never really addressed it fully. The first time was sometime around 1999 when we just did some plugging of prairie sod rescued from the Frey prairie remnant, south of Eunice. Giant Ragweed kind of took the place over while we weren’t looking, we got distracted. Charles had fully gotten the Tallows out using Clearcast, but Oaks and Mullberries and Chinese Privet and a few other species of trees and vines have had a field day there. We started over from scratch a couple of years ago by cutting and removing everything off the property. Trees twenty feet tall, everything was cut and removed from the property. Our mistake was we didn’t spray for a year after. We seeded and its been like a 200 pound gorilla on my back ever since. Although there are prairie species throughout, scattered. The Society believes we can turn that sucker around, though. Charles has a good working strategy. We have been up against the ropes getting pummeled for the last year, when we started slugging our way out of it with a good spray in summer, some experimental Tordon herbicide apllications in the prime window, this September, and then Saturday, hitting them with a solid one-two punch. Those mulberries don’t have a chance, dude. They are going down one way or another. Those fellows fought and scratched their way through the nasty vegetation and dosed the trees with the dreaded Tordon (a real nasty thing). We used it because we had tried just about everything else. We treated some in September and seems to have done some good. We tried three different approaches: cutting the basal stem with a machete and then spraying the cuts, spraying without a cut, and cutting the trees down at the ground and treating the stump. We had obvious kill. Thanks Andrew Dolan, (private lands coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service) for the sage advice about the Tordon). It took some bold souls to do the job. They got ‘er done. I was in charge, taking the place of Dr Allen while he is in hospital so I did absolutely nuthin’ but point my finger 🙂 Jackie, Margaret and CC worked on the Eunice restoration site.

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above, the guys ready for the White Mulberry throw-down,  Stacy Huskins, Brian Early, Steve Nevett and Jacob Delehoussey.

Last Saturday, an article written by Stephanie Bruno, a reporter from the New Orleans Morning Advocate, was printed, promoting my talk at the New Orleans Botanical Garden for the Green Council Inspire Speaker. The article was great, I thought. Short and sweet. Stepahanie got it mostly all right. And the talk went okay, I hope. Only had two sleepers out of twenty five (just kidding). I noticed when I was talking about natural succession and fire, everybody was smiling. When I talked about herbicides, everybody frowned. I do another talk, pretty much on the same subject on December 13th and I will incorporate more to do with home gardens. The Green Build Council talk was more for landscape architects. this is the link to the article if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks, Stephanie!

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/10767427-171/incorporate-native-plants-grasses-and

I planted, with a lot of help, a prairie landscape in Pineville, Louisiana, Tuesday. I worked with the client through Tony Tradewell, a landscape architect who works out of Alexandria.

I arrived in the morning and Tony helped, along with two fellows who work with the homeowner regularly. It was great because we got it all done, 4 and a half acres, in a few hours, seeding it all by hand. The homeowner used his tractor to sow a bunch of annual color, like we used Clasping Leaf Coneflower and American Bachelor Button and a bunch of other stuff, over what we seeded, along with a combination of Rye grass and cereal rye to help stabilize the soil since it was a steep slope and well tilled soil, yikes.

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The Hunt Prairie

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above, Prairiedog, June Bug, and Cookie, all finished with the cool planting at the Hunt residence

I made two back-to-back trips to Eunice for seed collecting this week and loaded up on some amazingly rich seed collections. I processed and stored most of it and have some left yet to store. I will be offering the mix from the Restoration site as an exclusive Cajun Prairie Restoration site seed mix and a portion of the money that comes from these seed sales goes to the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society. This seed mix has its origin from all of the remnant prairies that Drs. Allen and Vidrine discovered and transferred genetics from in the late 1980’s, to the Eunice property.

This summer and fall we have put some amazingly diverse and varied seed mixes together along with some individual species collections. Check into this on the blog under “About our Seed”. My machine (the dinosaur) is teaching me new tricks on how to get stuff I never knew I could. Been experiment’n.

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above, our seed storage room, nice, chillin’ and getting full.

I left Eunice super early this morning and got home before the rain got here, so I safely made the trip without getting the seed wet. Wet seed, not good. Yay!

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above, Brian’s photo of me in the zen zone, drying awesome Cajun prairie seed at the Eunice Parking lot. When you rake the seed, it smells of the honey-sweetness of licorice goldenrod, Solidago odora. yum-num

I met Thursday with Jiaze Wang, a student who is working on her doctoral studies at LSU under Dr. Eugene Turner. Dr. Turner teaches a restoration course at LSU (Oceanography and Coastal Sciences). Jiaze and I met at the Chapapeela Park in Hammond, where an awesome prairie is kicking, like Bruce Lee.

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Chapapeela is doing this! its something to see, folks. Its wild.

Jiaze and a student friend of hers and I walked the prairie, she photographed, asked questions, and then we went out of the cold at the Park administration building where she and her friend recorded an indoors interview which will be posted on line at some point, as I understand it. She will make a poster about Chapapeela, about our work with building the prairie gardens there and elsewhere, I think. And they may post the interview on line. As Popeye would say, ‘How embarrasking”.

Lastly, as soon as I got home this morning, I headed to the farm to see some of my old friends planted there. I mainly wanted to see my Frey prairie planting. Since last week, I am mourning the sad and sudden death of Frey Prairie remnant. This amazing, hallowed and sacred ground was discovered by Dr Allen and Dr Vidrine back in the early days of prairie Louisiana prairie research. It was thrilling to walk through. Frey Prairie remnant was a small fraction of what was the once-vast Plaquemine Prairie, which was a small part of what was the Great Southwest Prairie of Louisiana; 2.5 million acres of Gulf Coastal Tall grass prairie, located in the southwestern section of La. Frey was clearly one of the last great gem remnants in the state and one of the most floriferous, diverse pieces of ground in the South, one of the most heavenly places on planet Earth. As far as I know, My planting at the farm, about an acre, is the only remaining genetics that have been established using exclusively Frey prairie genes. The Eunice prairie is a mix, Dr. Vidrines Cajun Gardens is a mix, of prairie remnants they fould. I collected seed at Frey on one day in October 2001 and planted the seed in this one acre plot in November. It is a genetic representation of Frey prairie. Today it is a wonderfully diverse and gardenesque planting that gives me great pleasure and total, absolute enjoyment. I was so stunned, when a week ago, I went to Frey to visit and saw that it had been turned in to a rice field edge. Turned upside down and made a rice levee. What an awful crime scene it was. So sad that people don’t see any value in this stuff. Maybe we can change that.

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above, photos from 1987, by Malcolm Vidrine, of Frey prairie, when it was still in tact (from the book, The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History) click to enlarge, ya’ll

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Above, a photo of Frey from 2012, with Manfreda virginica in foreground and the purple of Liatris squarosa behind.

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above, a Live Oak seedling has grown in spite of fire, in my Frey prairie planting, Carriere, Mississippi, 2014, 13 years after planting. It is the bomb.

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when you’re on the ground, you can see the difference in the frequency benefit of burning. The left (west) side of the Frey prairie field has been burned five times in 13 years and the right has been burned only three. A lot more weedy stuff in the right side as compared to cool cat garden on the left. The right side area is still very diverse but with more Canada Goldenrod, Privet, and a little less grasses.

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Manfreda virginica in my Frey planting

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High-dollar Helianthus molls and Rudbeckia grandiflora. They don’t call it grandiflora for nuthin’

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the most delightfully aromatic and pretty unique plant, Sweet Goldenrod, Solidago odora. Frey prairie lives on!!!!!!

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These are some shots of some of the Duralde restoration Demo plots, north of Eunice. Two acres of individual species blocks (10 ftx 12 ft), planted with Cajun Prairie species, 80 in all. I got to see it just after the paths were mowed. This is the brainchild of Dr. Allen.

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a nice ground cover of Eryngium yuccafolium, a thick stand of juvenile seedlings

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Lespedeza capitata, nicely settled in this rectangle. Go Team Prairie!!!

dude, cool Jim Willis video on quail habitat reconstruction. see link

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