long week, long post

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Made a trip to the big city last week to survey the Louisiana Children’s Museum site for Torpedo grass, a nasty invasive thug. I took a few photos to share while there. Above is the Hibiscus seedling grown from seed I gathered at Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine’s Cajun Prairie Gardens in Eunice. Malcolm and his family have, over the last 18 years, developed a wonderful model for sustainability using natural prairie. Malcolm searched for many years, for the darkest form of Hibiscus mosheutos in prairie remnants. This one is actually a seedling a little lighter in color than some in Mac’s garden. I gave the seed to Gail Barton of Meridian Mississippi, who grew it off in plug trays for a year, then some went to Rick Webb, who grew them into 3 gallon pots and then they went off to market via Dana Brown Landscape Architects, who designed and with volunteers, planted the City Park wetland near Pelican greenhouse, where this plant and her buddies reside

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While surveying, I smelled a wonderfully sweet fragrance which I followed enough to see it was coming from a blooming elderberry bush nearby. I had no idea that Elderberry was so delicious to smell. Oh, and perty. What a great wildlife and human food plant it is.

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The native palm, Sabal minor var. louisianensis, on the LCM site, City Park. This is a subspecies of Sabal minor, the dwarf palmetto, endemic to the Mississippi flood plain, having a distinct, plated trunk. The trunk on this’n is about seven feet tall. You can see the old floral stalks rising above the foliage.

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Naturalized Zepharanthes citrina, Yellow Zephyr Lily, in City Park, on the east side of Tad Gormley Stadium. When the weather is wet and the Park mowing staff is disrupted in their schedule, this field loads up with Zephyr lilies, by the thousands. Above, flower, and maturing seed head.

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I caught Monty napping the other day while taking a respite from the heat. I sat there and watched a Red Headed Skink waltz up and proceed to bask in the sun with Monty for a while. It was pretty funny.

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They rested there for a while, like they were best-buds.

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Went for brunch in Mandeville last Sunday and dropped by so Candi could see the cover crop of annuals in flower. The Clasping Coneflowers were just getting cranked up. That’s me and my bald head creating the glare in the photograph. A cool storm was brewing in the distance. The cover crop is just temporary, holdiong soil until the perennials I planted come up.

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This is where I spent a good bit of time Wednesday and Thursday, collecting seed by hand on one of the most beautiful, floriferous roadsides in the state. I won’t say where here but ask me personally and I will tell you. Gotta watch for poachers, ya know. on the left, the brown dangling seed heads of Beaked Sedge, Rhynchospora and on the right, the yellow flowers of Helinium vernale. In the middle is the green heads of the ditch-loving Carex pseudovegatus. nyum-yum.

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Just down a mile or so is a mile-long strip of a Pale Coneflower in the powerline.

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Pale Coneflower in Pink and Woodland Blanketflower, Gaillardia aestivalus, are worthy beauties.

check out the Red Cow Ant I found while shuffling for seed.

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One of the targets Thursday was Baptisia bracteata

Prairie-marsh Ranch

Was invited Friday to meet at an “undisclosed location” to see a private ranch in Cameron Parish. This is right at the Sabine River, ya’ll, a stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico. If I told you where this was, they’d have to kill me. Its a huge ranch, with approximately 900 acres of high quality Tallgrass prairie, somewhat degraded by the happy cattle that roam around eating prairie plants. Lucky dogs. My friend has set up permanent research plots to exclude the cattle and to experiment with removal of woody shrubs, which are both causing some disturbance to the herbaceous vegetation. He has introduced fire as well, igniting new spark of life to this awe inspiring landscape. Holy ground. Holy Cows!!!!

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One area we saw was loaded up with super-sweet Texas Coneflower, Rudbeckia nitida var. Texana in peak bloom.  This for me is reminiscent of Nash Prairie in south Texas, but there are larger Mima mounds here than in Nash.

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As you might imagine, the bees were a buzzin’ about the Coneflowers, as was this Moth That my friend Larry identified but I forget the name. click on the photo to enlarge it. a spectacular site, the Coneflower, but what you don’t see is really the special gift of seeing this site. numerous species of native grasses and wildflowers are there, too. They are just letting sister Coneflower have her day. Everybody gets a turn to shine.

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You can make out a Mima mound (above) by the vegetation that exists on it. In this case you can see Sasafrass trees and Stylingia sylvaticum, which are not supposed to be here in the marsh edge, but have happily stowed away on the Mimas islands where the altitude is agreeable.

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Along with the Mimas go the Prairie pot holes or marias. They’re large, flat depressions that hold water for most of the year and contain Pickerel Weed and the very groovy Eliocharis quadrangularis and a host of other marginal aquatics

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Like I said, the Cows are some happy out here, scarfing down on Little Bluestem grass, Brownseed Paspalum and (above) Eastern Gamma grass. They take the leaves and leave the stems. Eastern Gamma, a relative of Corn, has a very high sugar content, and is highly palatable to livestock.

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Looking southwest to the Gulf of Mexico, from a Ridge and Swale habitat, at the edge of what is a intermediate marsh fringe, (on the foreground plain) is Cyperus articulatus and Spartina patens meadow with all kinds of odd-ball plants mixed in. Look closely and you can see several miles in the distance from this slight ridge, the vegetation changing incrementally, the whole time, to a much more wet and saline condition.

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The blue grey foliage of Hibiscus lasiocarpus is striking, not to mention the flars.

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Larry, with the inflorescence of super-fine textured foliage of Spartina patens with a dragonfly mid-air centered in the image frame at about the level of hiss head. Notice black-burnt woody shrub skeletons.

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Best part of the whole trip is working with my newly discovered Side Oats Gramma stand just south of Vinton, La., I stuck my machete in the ground to show the height of the Side Oats grass. This rare stand, adapted, so close to the Gulf, gives me hope that of one day it’ll be part of the urban landscape via the nevoux no-mow lawn grass for Louisiana and Gulf Coastal meadow plantings: a short grass prairie type thing. The plant is not found at all frequently in the state and nowhere I know, this close to the Gulf. And seed grown from places further north and west don’t tend to survive here. So local genes are the key. Last year I came to get seed off this stand and it had just been sprayed by the highway crew. This year, it is green and in seed so I harvested some seed and pilfered some plants in time to beat the spray rigs. I will divide the plants and build some stock to plant out at the seed farm. But the dug plants will go in quarantine for a year since it was growing near Chloris, a bad weed. When flowers come next year, I’ll know if a Chloris snuck through. The seed I am starting plugs with will be planted out next spring.

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Gotta handful of Side Oats Gramma seed for propagation.

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gotter done, dug some.

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all watered down, the Side Oats plants covered up and ready for the ride east. gitty-up.

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At home, I gathered up some old cups to pot up the Side Oats plants with.

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The Side Oats, all done potting up into quart-sized containers, with a proper haircut.

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This is the plug trays seeded with the Side Oats, yea. I wasn’t messin’ around. There were about fifteen seeds sown to each plug. Aught to have good germination this time of year

Mac’s Garden, a quick visit

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Visiting Dr. Vidrine’s Cajun Prairie Gardens, Friday afternoon, with his Daughter-in-law Maureen and Grand-daughter, Odille. For fourteen years old, Odille really knew her plants. Maybe she’ll be a great Biologist-ecologist like her PawPaw.

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A rather large Spiral Orchid, with a three year old clump of Red Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, in the background.

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Asclepias verticilata in full flower, in the Vidrine nursery.

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above, as if on key, a Monarch showed up to visit with us while we were visiting the Asclepias, landing to nectar on the Whorled Milkweed flowers.

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This is Dr. Vidrine’s first-year Milkweed nursery. Lots of new seedlings of five different species.

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I should have taken my goofy hat off first. Me, Odille, and Maureen Vidrine at Cajun Prairie Gardens.

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Doc Still teaches at the University of Louisiana at Eunice. He avidly collects and sells Milkweed seeds and he grows plants for sale in his front yard nursery, in his free time. Contact him about Milkweeds or one of his awesome books, The Cajun Prairie: A Natural HIstory and his latest Mites of Fresh Water Mollusks. These are his life’s work in print. He is working on his next book about prairie gardening with a fantastic title that I can’t reveal. It is in the works.

reach at Malcolm –  malcolmvidrine@yahoo.com

2 thoughts on “long week, long post

  1. Prairie Dog says wuff-wuff! glad you and that other person (there’s bound to be someone else) likes it!

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