Been lovin’ me some Manfreda and the “gift of the wild things”

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First, start with the find of the week, a beautiful snake at the Nature Conservancy site in Abita Springs, the Abita Creek Flatwoods preserve, on the Hillside Bog area there. The subject, identified by Justin Sokol as Coluber constrictor, the Southern Black Racer. It is a beautiful find, a beautiful snake. It just sat there looking invisible, ignoring me until I finally walked away.

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This is a funny picture of a smaller one, possibly the same species, photographed a few minutes later, uphill from the other. I saw it and I could tell it was startled (as I was) and stopped right in my path, and then it lived up to its name and “raced” away. This is actually an action shot. It took off like a rascal!

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a Sabatia at Abita in full flower, possibly S. campanulata or S. difformis at Abita Creek bog

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above, this is base camp at the Hillside Bog, called affectionately, the missing link. I have had the pleasure of occasionally, over the last year and a half, assisting Dr. Bill Platt and his students with plot construction and lately, data collection. Here, Dr. Platt, Viet Dao and James Hebert rest from the heat under the shade of a canopy. We are recording height, basal diameter and the number of species woody plant stems in the eighteen 20 meter plots; a rather tedious task. Dr. Platt, a fire ecology sage, is examining the use of combining the application of certain herbicides and the use of annual controlled burns to learn how to best restore a woody-encroached bog like this to a more grass dominated, natural vegetation. A recent paper by Dr. Platt and the other authors, on this work, has just been accepted by the Journal of Restoration Ecology for publication soon. Go team!!

Prairie Lily, Native Agave, a friend of mine

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I was at my seed farm in Mississippi last week working and started to look at some of the prairie gardens there. I found a lot of native lilies, Manfreda virginica, hidden amongst the grassy plants. This is a seven year old plant from a batch of seedlings that Mitch Jacobs, an employee back in the day, grew from Frey Prairie seed. Scroll down and notice the genetic variation in this most wonderful, high quality prairie plant.

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This 14 year old plant is heavily mottled in red-purple, and more so than most. Can you say awesome? Its in my Frey Prairie garden. My Frey garden is a one acre garden at the farm planted with seed from Frey Prairie, which was the one last remaining natural Cajun prairie remnant existing in St. Landry Parish. It is gone now, plowed under, but it is not forgotten.

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Nectar flows from the stamen-filled-flowers of this awesome, highly adaptable native lily species. Hummingbirds love to visit it when its blooming.

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What used to be stand of Manfreda virginica once stood at Frey Prairie; no longer there. Frey Prairie was once one of the most floriferous pieces of ground in the state, until it was destroyed by the plow in late summer, 2014. Rest in peace, my friend, eternal slumber. click to enlarge the photos here.

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This is a Manfreda virginica with a extraordinary variegated margin, on my back deck, from seed I collected at Frey Prairie,  Gail Barton propagated the seed into plugs, then I got them to Rick Webb, who grew them off into one gallon containers. Rick recognized this one plant to be different and pulled it off to the side for safe-keeping, so I call it Rick.

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above, Manfreda is a great plant for planting in containers. These, planted with finer-leafed White-blooming Rain Lilies (Z. drummondii), in a large Strawberry pot in my backyard, have been growing happily here for five years, where I have never had to water or care for them in any way. Yet they seem to be happy as a clam.

Folsom’s Green prairie, a do it yourself garden, one and a half years after seeding

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a concept by moi, on paper, above, summer 2013

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….and plowed-out a few times by the time this google image was produced, November 2013

My client, Doug, started with bare dirt. He tilled and tilled, building a seed bed for good seed-soil contact, starting several months before planting time. Importantly, we surveyed before he started prep work, looking for invasive species. Surprisingly, none were found. This lack of problematic species on-site and the fact the the ground here is flat made things easy for the enterprising Doug. No spraying of herbicides was necessary.

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controlled burn March 2015, after 14 months, enveloping the prairie with a ring of fire. You can barely see my burn buddy, Terry Johnson on the north end of the fire, working hard.

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Doug, out-standing in his field, post-burn 🙂

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This weeks visit was fun. I found the tiny Sabatia, possibly the species campesteris in flower.

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see the previous year’s contrasting black-burnt stubble amongst the lushness of this adolescent fine-fuel landscape

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The grey-foliaged hyper-pollinator species, Eryngium yuccafolium, a carrot Family member in foreground, with the uber-cool sunflower Helianthus mollis in mid frame topped with the golden-yellow flowers of Rudbeckia hirta in the upper background, all snuggled-up with a blanket of Grasses, Beaked Sedges, and Rushes.

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the obscure but significant Dicanthelium commutatum

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There’s no junk in Juncus!

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hundreds of first-flowering Monardas are blooming in the field, this white one is Linhiemer’s Bee Balm, Monarda lindhiemerii

Happy anniversary to my bride, Candi, on this wonderful summer day, another year of marital bliss!

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