keep bugging me, man!

Habitat Conversion

Convert a patch of your lawn into prairie and find a world you would never discover otherwise; the plants, the patterns, the bugs!!!

Insects are not just beneficial, they’re essential! Bugs are good. Ask any Mother bird who is fluttering about in search of food for her chicks and she’ll tell ya. “chirp, bugs are good for my bebes! …..chirp chirp!”

“A single pair of breeding chickadees must find 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to rear one clutch of young”, according to Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. Even though seeds and berries are nutritious winter staples, insects are best for feeding growing fledglings. Surprisingly, insects contain more protein than beef, and 96% of North American land birds feed their young with them. Although fly maggots and spiders might curl your lip, to a chickadee, these are life-saving morsels full of fat and protein.

If you’re not a fan of six legged organisms, you should curl up with Dr. Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home. It will reveal the complexity of nature through bugs. or just pull up any Doug Tallamy youtube video.

Then you’ll see!

Personal Outlook Conversion

What comes along with growing a prairie landscape besides flowery landscapes and bugs, is something you’ll find within yourself, a sense of satisfaction that goes far beyond what a garden can bring; a lesson in gratefulness and gratitude, a lifetime of beauty, joy and wonder.

Easily Demonstrating Pollinator Response

Wonderful things happen when you prairie garden. Plant Monarda punctata, Spotted Horsemint, and see a world of beauty and intrigue develop before you, from the tiniest seeds. Horsemint is a mid-succession to late succession species that comes up easily from seed (its a weed) in a prepared soil. It competes and proliferates over time. Kids! try this at home!

 

after a week of overcast rainy weather, the pollinators insects are out en masse, and very active, taking advantage of a first dry sunny day – this was planted in November 1998 – Pastorek Habitats-Meadowmakers’ seed farm – Carriere, Mississippi. What you can’t see clearly in the video, are many polllinator insects – working the Horsemint flowers for nectar. I walk right through the bees and wasps and they don’t bother me a bit – they’re too busy to notice. 🙂

 

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Spotted Horse Mint is a highly aromatic plant with all parts having a pleasant citrusy scent.

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above, a tiny native bee dances the Watusi in the disc of a Compass Plant flower – at the farm – tell me where you’ve seen one of these bee’s lately?

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Ville Platte’s Louisiana State Arboretum’s native prairie developing into a nice sod

The Louisiana State Arboretum prairie garden is near the arrival area, at the Park’s Visitor’s Center, adjacent to the parking lot.

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planted in the winter of 2012 with seed provided by Pastorek Habitats, these gardens have developed into a decent representation of what an attractive prairie habitat can be. The seed was collected from the Cajun Prairie Restoration site and other relic prairie areas in southwest Louisiana.

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Sabatia, Rose Gentian, above

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Green Milkweed

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obviously not my hand, ha – Kim Hollier, Interpetive Ranger at the Arboretum, holds the flowering head of a member of the Carrot Family, a “hyper-pollinator” species, Eryngium yuccafolia, Button Snakeroot.

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above Liatirs, Blazing Star, and a very happy Gulf Fritillary butterfly, foreground, with a Switch grass mass, in background.

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Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly

(photos by Arboretum Interpretive Ranger Kim Hollier)

 


 

Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint – pollinator plant profile

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Mt. Mint flowering clusters make a good landing pad for butterflies

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Even though the flower clusters are tee-tiny and really need to be examined by using a hand lens to truly appreciate them, they can be quite showy in the landscape when in found in large numbers. Generally speaking, when you find this plant in the wild, it is usually a sign, an indicator, of high quality vegetation. Its a nearly carefree garden plant, with annual cutting back of spent stalks, the only chore needed to keep it looking at its best. In nature, fire does this. No insects that I have ever seen cause it any damage. They are probably too intoxicated by its sweet nectar to care about eating the plant.

Mountain Mints are highly aromatic. All parts of the plant have minty scented qualities and can be used to make tea and as a culinary spice.

I don’t remember ever having lost a plant in a garden and in fact it readily multiplies; it proliferates!

Plantings that I did in my seed field many years ago are now large masses that have spread and become the dominant feature in the landscape, moving out other exotic and early succession species.

A plant grown from seed becomes, over a three year period, a clump about a foot or so in diameter. The clumps increase in size over the years, becoming a dense ground cover, a green carpet an inch or two high in the cool of winter. When in bloom, at its peak, its stands about two feet tall.

Gardening with Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint is so simple – easier than tying your shoe. Propagate it by division by separating individual plants from the mature clumps. Take cuttings from vegetative growth just as the stems become rigid (June) and well before they begin to elongate and bud up to flower.

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above, Like many prairie species, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, has an extensive range of distribution. You’ll find it in prairies relics in the eastern half of the country. (source, BONAP)

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In Louisiana, its generally out of the river flood plain parishes, but just about everywhere else. (source Vascular Flora of Louisiana)

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from Charles Allen’s Edible Plants of the Gulf South

 



 

City of Mandeville / La. Dept of Transportation “Wildflower Conservation Garden” (that apparently no one notices! ha!) Feeds the Insect Masses!

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above, some schmuck standing next to one of the dozen or so Long Leaf Pine trees in the City of Mandeville prairie, a prairie garden grown from awesome local-gene, Pastorek Habitat seed. Nice Ragweed in the photo foreground – the yellow flowers are likely Coreopsis linifolia

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saweet! Impressed, huh!

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a nice patch of mature Bothriochloa, above

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a stand of Florida Paspalum has arrived on the scene, above

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…and the first Rough Leaf Goldenrod will bloom this year…yay!

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some good sized polulations of Clustered Bushmint _Hyptis alata

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and some Spotted Horsemint, too…

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Little Bluestem grass, a conservative species, starts its late-summer reach to the sky, with flowering stalks (inflorescence) that will produce viable seed – the proliferating garden

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above, the first Liatris to bloom so far in the Mandeville garden, shows its adolescent floral spikes. Not sure which species – didn’t look. but could be pycnostachya, spicata or acidota. These and many other perennial plants will start to mature enough to start colonizing within the Bluestem structure, coloring up the landscape over time.

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above, 25 years of Liatris pycnostachya proliferation in Cajun Prairie Society restored prairie, Eunice, La., the result is a quite unusual and stunningly beautiful landscape, produced via seed. This garden has been the inspiration for my last twenty plus years of work. Dr. Charles M. Allen and his magical botanical creation, co-instigated by his friend and colleague Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, succeeded in their effort to establish a restored prairie in which to study prairie Ecology and restoration. Ten years ago there were just a smattering of the Liatris in this field, its only in the last several years that it has proliferated to this point. (September 2014) (click on photo to enlarge)

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Liatris pycnostachya, remnant prairie, Cameron Parish, Louisiana

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Laitris seed, magnified

The Southeastern U.S. pine landscapes are often called Long Leaf Pine-Bluestem plant communities because these two species were once the dominant species, generally speaking. Today it is not common to find either one of these in wild landscapes.

When I stopped in last week to see the Mandeville garden, the insect species were everywhere flying above, and nectaring on flowering plants. As I waded through the planting, grasshoppers, bees, skippers and moths darted away from me to a safer perch – and the sky was filled with hundreds and hundreds of Dragonflies.

 

the one + acre Mandeville Garden is at the corner of East Causeway Approach and Louisiana State Highway 190 – go check out all the critters, see it for yerself, ya’ll! its bad-ass.

Charles M. Allen Phd plant identification classes – see below link – these are excellent, intense classes in which to learn more about plant taxonomy

Sept 10-11 edible plant workshop – Allen Acres B and B

Sept 13-15 basic plant id workshop – Allen Acres

Sept 20-22 Wetlands Plant id workshop – Allen Acres

Sept 24 Pollination Celebration

https://tpmgblog.wordpress.com/pollination-celebration-2016/

Sept 24-25 Prairie Conference – Lafayette, La

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event;jsessionid=35FA525E0215A325CCC9ECB3F93A6C0F.worker_registrant?llr=ejjbmvjab&oeidk=a07ecyp33k35061afd9

Sept 27-29 Graminoid (grass identification) workshop – Allen Acres

Sept 30-Oct 2 Butterfly Blast – Allen Acres

Oct 4-6 basic plant workshop (Poplarville, Ms)

Oct 8-10 basic plant workshop – Allen Acres

Oct 17-18 edible plant workshop – Allen Acres

Oct 25-27 basic plant id workshop – Allen Acres

Oct 29-30 edible plant workshop – Allen Acres

November 4-5 plant id workshop, Belle Chasse, La

Nov 6 edible plant workshop – half-day – Belle Chasse, La

 

for more info on these dates contact Dr. Charles Allen @   native@camtel.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Landry Parish Visitor’s Welcome Center garden designs in Ville Platte, to receive national award

In September it will be formally announced that the St. Landry Visitor’s Center will receive yet another award of recognition for the landscape garden design. This time its a national award!

Extremely grateful to be able to say, Pastorek Habitats collaborated on many of the horticultural ideas and aspects of this design including the authentic Coastal Prairie habitat gardens – serving as consultant to the Landscape Architects.

This is our third team-collaboration national award. yay! Teams!

But, it is about the habitat and the art of it, not the glory, ya’ll. 🙂

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above, its a groovy garden –  –  this image, looking at the intersection of I-49 and Highway 167, looking to the northeast – more than half of the garden spaces are prairie gardens. The service road prairie garden, in foreground, I seeded with wild-collected coastal prairie seed in November, 2010.

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some real wild-garden truthiness exists at the Visitor’s Center. Hope you have been to see these gardens.

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the generalized garden design – click to enlarge

 

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All of the stormwater is captured from the upland areas and roof of the building and retained in large shallow rectangular pools that double as wetland gardens. Here above, the rain pours through the gutter system, down rain chains, and to the ground.

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In April, the water basins are alive with native color

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The Center’s Little Bluestem grass “lawn” is one of central feature of the “front yard”. The Cajun Prairie meets the freshwater marsh.

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Blackeyed Susies and Bullrush grow under the rain chains and roof drip line.

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Little Blue lawn in September, above

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Little Bluestem shines brightly in winter – Feb 2012 – above

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the seeded prairie gardens, last week, photos by Visitor’s Center Director, Celeste Gomez.

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Bluestem is woven through the garden

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Cajun Prairie greets you upon arriving at the St. Landry Visitor’s Center, Ville Platte, Louisiana, in the heart of what once was the Great Southwestern Prairie of Louisiana.

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Basically, not a lot has been done to maintain these gardens since they were planted 5 years ago. A habitat preserve has been established. Very few weeds exist as pressure is exerted by native grasses and flowering plants; pushy perennials. One weedy hold-out, Vasey grass, ha shows its seed head, towering above the pinky-white flowers of American Basket Flower – our native Bachelor Button, which has surprisingly naturalized from a one-time planting back in the day. I didn’t realize then that the Basket Flower would stick around but it has – a little lagniappe!

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The demonstration gardens were installed by the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society with plants dug from the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project site in nearby Eunice.

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the dangling flower of White Prairie Clover – in the seed-grown prairie garden area

Hammond Field Day, awesome/ finalized program for the prairie-oriented LNPS conference, Feb 5-7, 2016

“Nature is an open book for those who care to read. Each grass-covered hillside is a page on which is written the history of the past, conditions of the present, and the predictions of the future.” – John Ernest Weaver

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above, below, my November 2001 planting in Pearl River County, Mississippi done with seed from the ancient Frey prairie relict, which used to be located five miles directly south of Eunice, Louisiana on an old discontinued rail bed. The seeding at the farm was an experiment that worked, these photos taken Tuesday. The old Frey prairie site, until recently, one of the most floriferous patches of ground in the state. The farmer, who for twenty five years let us dig prairie sod for restorations there, decided the prairie would be better upside down so he plowed it under for an addition to his adjacent rice field. Yikes.

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The beauty of the Frey planting at my farm is in all its subtlety.  What was once an over-grazed cow-field has transformed into a delightfully intricate reflection of Frey by simply adding seed, now, rare genetics.

…the joy of prairie lies in its subtlety. Suzanne Winckler (2004, Prairie: A North American Guide, University of Iowa Press

 

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above, a view of a field at the farm that was never seeded and only managed with prescribed fire, since 1997. Incredibly diverse vegetation has developed here over the last 18 years by just burning. click to enlarge the images..

LSU Horticultural Field Day – Hammond Station – Thursday was the bomb!

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Horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings, LSU, discusses the research-demonstration gardens with the nursery industry group at Hammond Thursday. Many of these gardens are now all-native, with plants grown by Dr. Yan Chen and her staff, from seed collected, provided to the station by yours truly, in 2013.

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There are many very long, eight feet wide garden beds clearly labeled and filled with hundreds of plants of Narrow Leafed Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Splitbeard Bluestem, Indian grass, Switch grass, Tridens grass, Love grass, and Side Oats Gramma grass. Dr. Yan is interested in the conservation value and overall functionality of the grasses. She spoke about their beauty and of their horticultural qualities. She spoke of their connection to “the sense of place”. There are also gardens of some of the better horticultural species of prairie and Pine herbaceous flowering plants , too.

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above, Dr. Yan Chen discusses the attributes of native prairie grasses. Behind Dr. Yan, you can see the bright red of the knockout Roses in the Natives and Popular Plant Care and Maintenance Gardens. These are gardens demonstrating native companion plants for the Red Knockout Rose and common annual Vinca.

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Little Bluestem grass is a knock-out.

Actually, the Little Blue is laying over here more than it would in a poor soil without irrigation. We talked about cutting these back just before bloom in order that they stay more erect. Prairie grasses are used to the worst soil and are adaptable to super-low moisture, and low nutrient soils

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Large yellow flowers of Hibiscus aculeatus, Pineland Hibiscus bloom after being cut back in the summer after their first flowers went to fruit.

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Dr. Yan has cut the flower heads of the Texas Coneflower, Rudbeckia nitida var. Texana, twice this year, at late April and June, harvesting lots of seed and creating a chance for the plants to re-bloom, which they have. So by manipulation, you can get three flushes of flowers. Normally they would bloom just once.

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above, the Care and Maintenance gardens in June, with Rudbeckia nidita at peak flower, Indian grass in glaucus foliage. (photos by Yan Chen)

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above, among other horticultural delights at the field day was this Celosia, a non-native, yes, but a great bee plant. There is value in pollinators that aren’t native. see the celosia-bee video below…

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Purely for horticulture’s sake, the very striking nine foot tall dark purple colored grass Black Stockings Fountain Grass, Pennisetum trispecific. Grasses are swell.

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coefficient of conservatism determines what species are endemic to a particular habitat and how each species is placed in terms of rarity in the habitat.

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with prairie landscapes, the extended period of flowering and the diversity-variation of species carries pollinators through the entire growing season.

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these two above pages are only two of a total of five pages of phenology for the Coastal Prairie of La., The Cajun Prairie.

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Indian grass seed from the Cajun Prairie was used to grow six inch plugs, for the extra-steep slope at Repentance Park, Baton Rouge. Horticultural uses of natives has great potential for industry expansion, enhancement. the Picture sent to my freind Joe James, with Reed-Hilderbrand Architects, who helped design the Park. Someone with City gov’t sent him the image with this note, “With a hectic week of development and activity downtown, I was walking by and just had to pause at Repentance Park. There is something wonderfully beautiful about the Indian Grass in the fall. Check it out!”

backing fires, black lines and head fires, oh, my!

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above, the burn plan before I burned with Kurt Kotteman of Kotteman Tree and Forestry Service Monday. He and his crew let me, el gringo, help. It was the largest burn I have been involved with. What an exciting fire it was. We started at ten and got done at about 6, a long day. I got to throw some head fire once we got the southern portion protected, blacked-in. Head fires are exhilarating in this scale and the ferocity, compared to backing fires, especially when you have Inkberry en mass is impressive. Large patches of the colonizing Inkberry Holly, Ilex glabra and Big Inkberry Holly, Ilex coreacea, grow along with fine fuel grasses in Pine prairie habitat. The leaves of both black-berried Gallberries contain a waxy coating that is highly flammable. With a head fire and some wind, these masses of shrubbery go up in red flaming leaps of twenty feet or higher. Leapin’ lizards!!!! the dotted line is a line Kurt used as a safe line, due to its high moisture and low, very little, fuel load.

this on-the-fly video shows the immediate result of laying down a continuous fifty foot line of flame in a Gallbery patch with with a five mph wind behind it, and seeing the immediate reaction. Its tough getting through the Gallberry patches especially when you have fire on your tail and you get wrapped up in a greenbriar (smilax)! Yeee-Ouch, already!!

Baygall, Hammock, Bay head, all synonymous.

:  red bay
2
:  a tract of swampy land; especially  :  a low-lying tract of boggy or spongy land in the southern U.S. usually overgrown with the inkberry and with bay trees
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Baygalls are cool. There are loaded with evergreen shrubs and trees. Ilex coreacea, foreground on left, is a beautiful plant. The only place I’ve ever seen it for sale was through Woodlanders, Aiken, SC. But it should be more available. Dark green waxy leaves, with plants that form colonies, tight thickets.
I once asked famous Texas natives landscape designer and nurseryman Will Fleming of Hempstead, Tx., why he like Ilex coreacea and he said “Because its pretty.”.
Wow. pretty good reason.
In the baygall along with coreacea, you’ll find Red Bay (Persea), Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana), Southern Magnolia, Ilex glabra, Lyonia lucida, Itea virginica, Smilax, Cepalanthus occidentalis, Pinus palustrus (Long Leaf Pine), Pinus taeda, Black Gum, Taxodium ascendens, sphagnum, chasmanthium, wax Myrtle, odorless wax Myrtle, Cinnamon fern, Mitchellia repens, with a cyrilla thrown in every now and then. In east Louisiana Baygalls, you might see the rare Clethra alnifolia. In the western-most Louisiana baygalls you may find the rare Rudbeckia scabrifolia, Rough Coneflower, which is nearly identical to La. Coastal Tallgrass prairie’s R. Nitida, but is specific only to baygalls.
The shaded Baygalls transition into pitcher plant bogs, which are open and sunny and grass dominant. Baygalls have very little vegetation on the ground. Soils are sandy and are generally wet with occasional seeps, springs that can be tiny or very substantial. Fires generally blow through the grassy pitcher plant bogs and stop dead at Baygalls, with fuel levels low, and moisture levels high.
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thickets of black-berried holly cover an area of a Baygall, in St Tammany Parish, Louisiana click to enlarge
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The adjacent, grassy, pitcher plant bog in the distance, shining in the sun.
Gaillardia aestivalis, butterfly magnet 
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speaking of high horticulture, on of the highlighted plants LSU is touting is the Mesa Gailardia. A good plant, I’m sure. This’n above, is a variant species, an east Texan, Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri, found in very small populations in ten counties including Newton, which is on the state line with Loosiana. hmmm. These are variations of the white, the normal color of this subspecies. These surely have some horticultural promise. and they are all exceptional butterfly/ nectar plants. The bestest!
Gailardia aestivalis is yellow centered and maroon wine petaled in Loosiana with some populations having the subspecies flavovirens, an all yellow.
Prairie Event – February 5-7th 2016, Alexandria area, Loosiana, for more info, check in with Louisiana Native Plant Society after the middle of this month, when this program in its entirety, will be posted. Whodat!

8:30-9:00 Dr. Charles Allen – Prairie Garden Dynamics – Natural Changes Through the Years

9:00-9:30 Larry Allain –  Prairie Conservation and the Fate of Native Pollinators

9:30-10:00 Jim Foret – How to Solve All of the World’s Problems Using Prairie

10:00-10:15 Break

10:15-10:45 Dr. Malcolm Vidrine –  The Cajun Prairie Gardens and the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice – Flowering Phenology as it Relates to Natural Landscaping, Pollinators and Just Plain ‘Knock Your Eyes Out’ Beauty!

10:45-11:15 Beth Erwin – What I Have Learned About Hydrology and Prairies in Northeast Louisiana

11:15-11:45 Jessie Johnson – Briarwood’s Wildflower Meadow and How it Came into Being Because of Hungry Voles

11:45-12:30 Lunch

12:30-1:15 Business meeting (begins mid-way through lunch, in lunch room)

1:30-2:30 Jim Willis – Wildlife Habitat Federation – Bringing Back the B’s–Restoring Native Habitat in the Coastal Prairie

Larry Allain, Botanist, USGS National Wetlands Center, Lafayette, La

Charles Allen, Botanist, Fort Polk, Louisiana, Environmental, Colorado State University
Beth Erwin, Curator, Kalorama Nature Preserve, Collinston, La
Jim Foret, Horticulture, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
Jessie Johnson, Curator, Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve, Saline, La
Malcolm Vidrine, Biologist, Louisiana State University, Eunice
Jim Willis, Co-founder/ President, Wildlife Habitat Federation-Jim Willis Consultants, LLC, Cat Springs, Tx
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will work for prairie!

Lots of fab stuff happening at the Ponderosa ..and beyond…

Processed precious seed Monday that I gathered from our family farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi. A righteous collection it was, on a beautiful September Sunday afternoon. Below, an old proverb says, a bird in hand is better than three or more in the bush, or something like that.

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the main focus of the effort was to get a bunch of Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindhiemerii seed, the large rounded seed head in the middle. This field has acres of the stuff, and fills the fields full of pink and white when they’re in bloom. The white seed heads, above, at bottom-left, are of the fragrantly aromatic White-Leafed Mountain Mint, a favorite plant of mine. At ten o’clock, tucked between my index and middle finger is a tiny cluster of grey-ish seed heads of the illustrious Narrow-Leafed Mountain Mint. At eleven o’clock is the elongated head of the distinctly Coastal Prairie species Rudbeckia texana (nitida). At high noon is the demure but mui grande, Rudbeckia grandiflora, and, next to that, Rudbeckia hirta, which is next to Ashy Sunflower, at 3 o’clock. All of these are needed in adding to seed mixes, when applicable. And all are originally from the dozen or so, Cajun Prairie remnants, found and preserved by Dr. Mac Vidrine and Dr. Chuck Allen and the other Cajun Prairie pioneers-volunteers, way back when. Go micro-prairies!

 

Go west, old man…

Loaded up the trailer with the home-made superlative spray rig onto the back of the Kubota for a trip west to do some Tallow-whacking. Spent a grand mid-morning with my soil-loving bud, King of the Cajun Calm, Jim Foret, who has, just recently, pulled off a regular coup by getting permission to develop a three acre prairie garden at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Cade Farm. Additionally, Professor (Generalissimo Jim) Foret and Cade Farm manager, Mark Simon, will prepare for and plant a demonstration garden of native-gene Switch grass, about two acres. They already have a two or three acre planting of Switch grass, but it is Alamo Switch, which is a cultivar with genes from up above the north Texas line somewhere. eeww!!!!!

The UL planting with be research based and all native; local genes.

 

Cajun Prairie Restoration site work, Eunice, Louisiana; Woody-plant slaughter! Oh, the humanity!!!

Did a day of spraying Tallows and other woody plants in the afternoon on Wednesday at the Cajun Prairie Habitat Restoration site in Eunice. I think I got a good dent done there. It was so fun. Hooray for mechanical equipment!!!!

 

Hangin’ out in Hackberry

Headed to Hackberry, Louisiana for Thursday morning, where I met and worked with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries folks, Louisiana Natural Heritage field botanists Chris Reid, Chris Doffitt and Sairah Jared at a very cool and mostly flat piece of ground on a private ranch, where only the hippest and happiest cows dine. Our objective was to accomplish an unforgiving slaughter of Chinese Tallow trees on what is a very large and biologically significant Coastal Prairie remnant. Chris says that this is one of the most promising of the restores he is working with in terms of the private land owners being open to the idea of restoring native prairie and going all-in on what is real, live, native prairie, complete with mounds. It was like walking on air out there; levitation. Okay, actually, it was like walking on air in a very hot open-air baking-oven; I felt kinda like a thanksgiving turkey. But other than it being a wee warm, it was very enlightening to see yet another one of these treasures, a landscape-scale coastal prairie remnant. This is third I have been invited to in the last year. Whoop-whoop!

Hackberry, is one of many places in Louisiana where the world ends, basically.

You can’t easily get there from here, as the old saying goes.

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We met at Brown’s grocery Store, where you can get Hackberry House Slippers (shrimping boots) (sometimes called Delcambre Nikes) in three different colors; the typical white, green-camo and pink-camo. Yea! Take that, Rodeo Drive!

I drove behind Chris Reid, who knew the trail to the prairie ranch site.

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miles and miles we went, across the idyllic fresh water marshes and this, a man-made road through Black Lake.

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it was pretty, ya’ll.

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…we went, and went and went, westwardly…. and then we went some more…

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We finally arrived at the ranch. Nice Mima mounds were scattered in the grazed-mowed fields, before we reached our final destination.

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you can see to the left of Ms. Brahma, a four foot tall Mima mound. Pretty things, both.

I was there to share the technique I have been working on, for killing Tallow trees, which are a problematic plant when it comes to restoring prairie. We were using a brand-name of herbicide called Clearcast. Last year I painted some full-strength Clearcast onto some Tallows with a paint brush, in the yard here in Covington. The stuff out-right killed the Tallows, dead as a door nail, no root sprouts at all, ya’ll. We have been using Clearcast at the restorations in Eunice because it is deadly as a foliar spray and mostly selective to Tallow, but the full strength basal application is a new approach with promise. whooo-hooo! Herbicides rock!!!! get some!

Chris Reid was interested in trying the technique, and so I did an application and safety demo. I got them all instructed and off they went into the Tallow groves on-foot. Instead of a paint brush, they used a back pack sprayer with Clearcast and a crop oil for extra penetrating-ability. Then I saddled up the Kubota for some mechanical spray acrobatics-aerobics. Its all in the wrist, ya’ll.

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mixing the backpacks with stuff. photo by Sairah Jared

I think we did some real good. Got ‘er done! You can get a feel for the landscape we were working in on the south end of the 110 acre site by looking at my you-tube video link, below. I was foliar spraying, gunning for Chinese Tallow. You’ll see the Tallows in green in the field edges and lots of four-foot-tall Hibiscus lasiocarpa, a fuzzy leafed, bold herb, odd and grey as it’s leaves are. Its common on the Mima mound prairie landscapes I’ve seen in southwestern Loosianner.

 

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after we worked, we took a pleasure ride to the north end of the prairie restoration area where its open. Chris Reid said that this north side is the higher end of the field and so there was not as much woody plant encroachment. What a treat, indeedy!

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Here, a nice specimen of Ovate Leafed Cacalia, a beautiful, tall-growing perennial that pollinators seem to relish, in the mix with Little Bluestem grass and the tiny bright yellow sparkles of Soft Golden Aster, on a sweet treeless mound.

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holding a panicle of Sporobolus pyramidatus, Whorled Dropseed grass, in a bare saline area near a pimple mound, my first time seeing this. you can make out a better image of the seed head- one is laying over at the very top of the image against darker color in the frame, very skeletal

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Narrow Leafed Bluestem, a Coastal Prairie and Long Leaf Pine understory endemic just up a foot or so from the base of a mound.

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The Mima mounds are plentiful here, and generally uniform, showing up in this image as green vegetation. “The woody plants are generally up on the mounds” Chris said. Here, a ten foot Tallow tree plays King of the Mountain. However, if Chris has his way, it won’t be king for long.

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…this mound, a four footer, seen here behind the group, was topped with Indain grass and Little Bluestem and had many Liatris acidota, Sharp Blazing Stars, just finished blooming, wrapping around the base of the mound. The mounds are wonderful little gardens with fantastical arrangements of flowering plants and grasses, taking advantage of the gradient with high and dry plants up top, wetter loving plants at the base and a mix between, all native. From left to right, Sairah Jared, Chris Doffet, center, and Chris Reid, on the right. Botonia asteroides/ difusa is the white and Flat-topped Golderod is the yellow in the foreground.

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the farm house area in Google-earth, with mowed and grazed Mima mounds, click on the photo to enlarge

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the prairie field of a little over 100 acres, and the trees, in green, we were working on

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Just south of the farmhouse = cool landscape

 

Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area trip

Took a quick trip yesterday to scope out a seed collecting prospect, at Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area. I’d been wanting to see the site for a few years or more. It was worth the time spent. Sandy Holler is a great natural Pine prairie site with really significant herbaceous vegetation, with not-particularly-significant woodlands.

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Big Bluestem grass is plentiful at Sandy Hollow, seen here in front of the blue pick-up. Its fairly rare to find it in Tangipahoa Parish. You can certainly get an idea of what vegetation looked like in the Parish by seeing this Pine prairie remnant.

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They don’t call it Sandy Hollow for nuthin’. Its sandy there. Bush Mint, a cool plant, yea, growing in a more dry condition than normal.

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Liatris sqarrulosa, Southern Blazing Star or Red-neck Blazing Star

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This particular seedling of Southern Blazing Star had really dark purple colored bracts, and stood out among the others as superior in form. Really nice.

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I saw lots of Swallow Tails out there. This one, I think, a Giant Swallow Tail, but there were some Spice Bush Swallow Tails a’nectarin’, too. Some happy, smiling butterflies a-flutterin’ around in the sun.

 

Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects – Built Environment – Merit Award – goes Repentance Park Landscape Architecture design team – Go Micro-prairies!!!!

Repentance Park, Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Landscape Architect:  Reich Associates

Pastorek Habitats, LLC consulted on the Indian grass slope meadows at Repentance Park, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We also provided the seed for, and contracted the growing of the 3500 Indian grass plants (thanks Gail Barton!) planted as a natural meadow garden. We worked through Reed Hilderbrand, Cambridge, Mass., who, with subconsultants Reich and Associates, and Suzanne Turner Associates, of Baton Rouge, collaborated to provide construction documents and planting and management strategies for this steeply-sloped garden at the City Hall/ Old State Capitol/ Convention Center area. Other collaborators were the City of Baton Rouge and the landscape construction contractor, George Francise Landscapes.

LEED Project Army National Guard facility in Franklinton, Louisiana contract ink is dry!!!!!!

We will start on the preparation for construction of natural meadow-prairie grass areas at the Franklinton Readiness Center, a National Guard construction project, with the first herbicide application planned for this week. We are the designers of the meadow areas, in collaboration with Dufreche-Perkins Landscape Architecture. Go Army!

THIS JUST IN!!! HITCHMOUGH VIDEO OF PRESENTATION AT LSU, APRIL, 2015!!! Thanks, Landscape Architecture Prof. Wes Michaels!  and thanks Dr. Hitchmough!

http://coadmediasite.lsu.edu/mediasite/Viewer/?peid=34967c0816f14433ac5dd36ce335030f1d

 

general and advanced taxonomy classes / natives featured at Oct. Hammond event

 

For those wanting to learn more about native plants and natural things, several events are upcoming that might be of interest. Dr. Charles Allen, one of the leading experts on native plants in the southeastern U.S. is holding a series of four fall native plant identification workshops, starting with the first, general plant ID starting tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th, in the metropolis of Pitkin, Louisiana. These are intensive two day and a half day workshops intended as brain expanding exercises in natives. I will be taking the Asteracea / Fabacea class on October 30- Sept 1st. Cannot wait!!!!

Dr. Allen, who has literally written the books on natives. see the link

http://www.lnps.org/index_files/TripsandEvents.htm

Aslo worthy of a field trip is the Horticultural Field Day held on October 7th at the LSU Hammond Research Garden. Dr. Yan Chen and Dr. Allen Owings and others will be leading tours of their trial gardens once again. If you haven’t seen these gardens, and you make time to attend, I think you will agree that there is a lot to see and much to learn from a trip there, even if you can’t make it there that day. The gardens are open most every working day of the year. Bring your questions about you plants and gardens and meet these knowledgable folks.

Dr. Yan will be highlighting her work with native plants using local-sourced seed, which is really substantial and cutting-edge stuff! Go Tigers!

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local seed; its a natural

Collected lots of great seed from the farm yesterday. Dreamed of doing this when I was just a wannabee, back in the day. I planted giant gardens of Narrow-leafed Mountain Mint, Rough Coneflower, Spearmint scented White Mountain Mint (Malcolm Mint), Ashy Sunflower, Tall Tickseed, and copious amounts of Lindhiemer’s and Wild Bergamot Bee Balm all those years ago at the seed farm in Mississippi. It is such a treasure-pleasure to mechanically harvest from those seed fields. I hope in time that more folks do this sort of thing. That was the goal for me, not only to make a living from locally sourced native seed  produce on seed fields on my own land but also to provide a model for others to copy before I go to the big aster garden in the sky. It has worked so far. whoop-whoop!

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above, a bundle of White Leafed Mountain Mint, one that I named “Malcolm Mint” about 15 years ago, since Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, who I named it for, was the one to find it in the wild, propagate it, conserve it and pass it on. When I drive through my fields, and crush the Malcolm Mint plants with my tractor tires, the world fills with the heavenly sweet-scented aroma of Spearmint, a sensory delight, I must say.

 

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Similar in sensory over-load is the field of Frey Prairie genes that I planted back in 2000. Loaded with Sweet Goldenrod, one of our most useful and wonderfully scented herbs, Sweet Goldenrod, sometimes called Licorice Goldenrod is so amazing in that it transports your up onto a super-sweet scented cloud high above, when you step your feet across the field. Oh, high horticulture, how I love you! Frey Prairie is now fully extirpated; gone,  plowed under into a rice field. But my seed field has its genes, and all the texture, color, scent and diversity of what Frey once was. Its a gene-pool bank of sorts. in order to plant this field, I harvested the seed from Frey, the once, most-hallowed piece of ground. above, the golden yellow pyramidal heads of Sweet Goldenrod and the purply-pink square heads of Rough Button Blazing Star are complimentary, no doubt. Meadowmakers Seed Farm, Carriere, Pearl River County, Mississippi.

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Cool bean growing in the yard in Covington. It came in on its own only because I don’t mow much. This’n growing up the Agarista popufolia. A nice vine that the hummers and butterflies and I enjoy.

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Chuck Allen says this is a Strophostyles, above

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sweet video of me cleaning Geen Milkweed (below) that I roadside-rustled with Gail Barton last week. Sent my share off to entemologist Dr. Jovonn Hill at Mississippi State for a Balck Belt prairie pollinator planting project he’s doing. photos above are top left, clockwise, Green Milkweed in fruit, then in full seed, cleaned seed, and a massive plant that Gail and I were so impressed with. It was probably oder than she and I put together. It was a giant specimen with a bunch of seed, wrapped nicely on the highly flammable hair-like material that catches the wind and flies the seed off into the air. seed cleaning video uploaded onto my youtube channel.

KIDS! Try this at home!

Cardinal Rule

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speaking of locally native seed. a photo above of Cardinal Flower that occurred on its own in the yard this year, a great surprise, especially since I had bought in a few plants from a nurseryman, knowing they’d been shipped from a grower out of our region. Those bought plants were chewed incessantly by rabbits, so much that they are still nubbed to the ground all summer and still are. These plants, above, I found as seedlings while I was mowing one day this spring and kept the mower blades away from them. The rabbits don’t seem to want to try these. Yet. Maybe I’ll get some seed from them….

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Keep Covington Beautiful, KCB,is a group I have been working with for some time. They get stuff done, folks!

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KCB’s controlled burn result of the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail park is quite obvious. In the distance, see toasty Loblolly Pines, Tallow Trees and mixed vegetation. The fire opened up the landscape magically, removing several years of fuel that had built up, hiding the herb plants from the sun. In the foreground is the future Pitcher Plant flatwoods restoration area. The park is modeled after the North Carlolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the first Arboretum in the country that established a naturally designed and managed arboretum.

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above, sunlight and herbs are partners for biodiversity, on the ground at Blue Swamp Creek.

Permaculture in the Front Yard

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above, in the front yard of the Covington, Loosiana hacienda, my first logs of Shiitake mushrooms are ready for the skillet. I cut Gums out of my seed farm fields in January and plugged them with shitake spore-plugs. In a frying pan with butter and garlic, they are Yum-Yum!

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Granny says, “Vittles, Jethro!!”

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um, Probly not.

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last but not least, a vase of Candy Rain Lilly, Salvia and Sweet Coneflower for my sweetie, Sweetheart and wife, Candi, for the kitchen bar-counter. The amazing Sweet Coneflower, typically a plant found in wetter sites, was subjected two months of no rain, severe drought! and didn’t miss a beat when it came time to flower. That’s a drought with searing tempts that mostly reached 95 degrees every day, with at least one day at 104 degrees with a heat index of 120, yet it was happy as a clam in the ocean. Natives rock.

 

 

 

 

LSU AgCenter Station/Bot Garden, Hammond, getting down and dirty with native prairie horticulture

Some really serious horticulture work has been done with these genetics since that time.

I made time to visit with Dr. Yan and Dr. Allen Owings recently. I brought with me, the crop of Side Oats Gramma grass that I grew since June when I made a road side dig in Cameron Parish. I dug enough off the road edge to make about seventy nice and full, quart sized containers. Most of these I loaded into the pick-up and brought to the Station on Tuesday.

Dr. Yan says some of the Side Oats will go into what she calls her “Care and Maintenance” beds, which are demonstration gardens planted with one of the most popular of garden plants, the everblooming Rose, the Knockout Rose. The idea is to demonstrate how folks can use native prairie plants with the most common, everyday garden plants, so that one day local-genetic prairie plants, the ecological wonders that they are, will become more popular and more available for you and me.

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above, the site of my collection of the rare-gene-pool population of Side Oats Gramma grass, south and west of Vinton, Louisiana, a stone’s throw from the Gulf and the Sabine. A very special thanks to Partyin’ fool Bubba (Bubbette) for throwing out his or her Miller Light beer litter so I can demonstrate to you how very short the Gramma actually is. I stuck my machete in the ground, center, (see?), and the grass was about a foot tall in foliage with nice, typical, nearly-invisible flowering inflorescenses. To get some, you might have to beat out the spray guys. Last year I showed up to dig and the whole strip was nuked brown. This year I got em!

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the Grassmobile is going to market!! This eco-type of Side Oats has great potential for horticultural heights in Louisiana.

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above, this is the area where some of the native prairie stuff is at the Research Station, the three north-south oriented at the bottom left are grasses and forbs and three longer, east-west oriented garden beds on the bottom right of the screen are the Care and Maintenance gardens        click photo to enlarge it….

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Indian grass, Switch grass, left, and Cajun Prairie Rudbeckias, on the right, at the demo gardens at the Hammond AgCenter Station Research and Botanical Garden, Hammond Louisiana

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Rudbeckia grandiflora (foreground) and Rudbeckia nidita (in back), in full fruit

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Dr. Yan’s Care and Maintenance gardens, with Rosey-Red Knock-out Roses, Indian grass (far left), Little Bluestem grass, annual Periwinkle, Rudbeckia nidita, and Canada Germander. and some nicely clipped turf grass surrounding each of the gardens.

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Little Bluestem, in foreground, above white creeping Vinca, the black seed heads of Rudbeckia Nidita, visible in the distance. Shock-red of Knock-out Rose.

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These above, are photos provided by Dr. Yan, taken in June after the Rudbeckia nidita had been cut back after blooming in April. She told me she would be cutting them back again, harvesting the seed and looking for yet another re-bloom in October. Great thing about nidita is it is an evergreen, a winter green for the garden, like her big sister Rudbeckia maxima, but with rich green leaves instead of blue. Maxima is a very popular garden plant in the states and in Europe and has been for a long time. Nidita (texana), grandiflora and the very late blooming subtomentosa, I think, all deserve as much fame and fanfare.

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above, nice crop of Split Beard Bluestem coming on in one of the Station greenhouses.

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limited but in my opinion, very significant progress with Narrow Leafed Bluestem. Dr. Yan says they are a bit difficult to grow 😦  .

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above Joey Quibideaux, right, and his co-worker shifting-up the Split Beard Bluestem plants to 3 quart size pots, from four inch. Go Hammond!!!

below is a very unentertaining video of silphiums I found on I-55 on the way back from Jackson Monday, probably integrifolium. yea.

this guy on video, below, is totally wack!

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/2015/08/08/minutes-king-suburban-jungle-southfield-michigan/31344029/

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Crosby Arbo event/ February Prairie Gardening Conference in Louisiana

Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University event!

This Saturday July 11 is the day of the annual Aquatic plant sale (and gardening talks) at Crosby Arboretum, in Picayune, Mississippi. The Arbo has been doing this sale for many years and the staff works hard to propagate and find, cool plants to offer for sale for your water garden. I will be leading a field walk along the “pond journey” at 10:00, discussing the delights of having marginal aquatic plants in the garden and how to grow many of those we see from scratch.

Eileen Hollander, of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society will talk about propagation of the endemic, treasured Louisiana Iris at 11:00.

http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/july-calendar

February Prairie Gardening-Restoration Conference in Louisiana

I was asked by Bud Willis, the president of the La. Native Plant Society to help put together an education program focused on prairie gardening and restoration. With the help of Charles Allen, Beth Irwin and Rick Webb, I have succeeded in doing that, I think.

We have put together a single day of prairie presentations by seven of the most knowledgeable folks I know. Mark your calendars, Feb 5-7th, 2016 in the Alexandria, La. area.

Beth Irwin will speak about her work with her prairie gardens at Kalorama Nature Preserve and with Rector Hopgood’s amazing prairie in Mer Rouge Louisiana.

Charles Allen will speak on prairie dynamics natural succession

Malcolm Vidrine will speak of his work with building prairie gardens and will touch on prairie ecology.

Tree hugger and dirt lover Jim Foret (University of La, Lafayette) will speak of his home prairie garden.

Jessie Johnson will speak of her prairie gardens at Caroline Dorman’s Briarwood Nature Preserve.

Larry Allain of the National Wetlands Center will speak on prairie restorations he’s worked with and maybe share some insights into his many years of study of prairie pollinators.

Jim Willis of Cat Spring, Texas , co-founder of the Wildlife Habitat Federation (WHF), is a prairie gunslinger like no other. He has helped re-establish over 40,000 acres of prairie by way of his wonderful work with the WHF. Jim is a master of the farm implement when it comes to building grasslands.

Bring your questions. You’ll most likely get them answered at the conf. See the article from the Houston Chronicle on Jim and the WHF, below. how lucky we are to have him visit with us from so far away.

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/science-environment/article/Prairie-landowners-replant-to-make-room-for-quail-5928426.php

It should be a great day with lots of information shared.

Cucumbers with Character

On to horticulture in the garden…..

I have been working like a Turk over the years, trying to bring in a cucumber crop on a steady basis through the summer. Around here, you can grow cukes from April to November and you should. I try to put in a new crop every couple of weeks or once a month at least. This insures a steady stream of them. I’m on my fifth crop right now. Just planted seed yesterday.

I can’t stand a store bought cucumber. They are pretty to look at but not so good to eat. yuk!

Grow your own. Its so darned easy.

Okay, sometimes things go horribly wrong but heck, that’s farmin’, folks.

Its when they go right that matters and if you do a crop each month, you’re gonna enjoy reaping the benefits of your work. Go organic, dude. Yee who tries sometimes succeeds.

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My planting yesterday of cukes. Last week I took a shovel and turned the soil in this spot. came back yesterday and turned again, opened a slight linear trench with my shovel head, and sowed seed. I stepped on the seed to press them into the ground, and then barely covered them by busting a few clumps of soil with my hands over the seed trench. Then I stepped on the trench again to double up on soil-seed contact.

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a garden planted June 15th with a row of squash in the back and two rows of cukes in the foreground, left. I built two simple structures out of scraps for the vines to climb onto.

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this is the same garden yesterday. I build leaning trellises so the cukes hang away from foliage and are easier to find.

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I love to mulch with cardboard. these were planted a couple of weeks ago, just tied up yesterday, onto the cross-rope with little strings. I use the same technique of stringing that I learned at the tomato farm where I worked when I was just a whippersnapper. Tie the string in a boland knot so it doesnt sinch down and strangle the stem and then go up to the cross-rope and tie off. Each week, I assist the vines up the string by wrapping the vine around the string, just like at my old friend Lee Smith’s farm! Cardboard is so cool to work with, and its like, free! You can see the old cardboard (behind, in white) from last year, still suppressing weeds. Working overtime!

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looking north, Monty the Labradorian prairie dog chillin’ next to the Cucurbitaceae patch. On the left going up my hog-panel dragon sculpture is the wild and crazy Cucuzza squash vine, just getting started. In the center of the image is my heirloom White Chayote vine, down here we call the Merletons (we say it Millitons). French, I guess. I got this from friend, Bonnie Bordelon. Thanks Bonnie!

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You can see in the foreground here, my mulch job with all the recycled paper I collected from our office last week. saweet!!!

Verbena-on-a-Stick, Verbena bonariensis, great plant for nectaring Lepidoptera

Most garden folks know the common weed Verbena Braziliensis. Its a weed you can find all over the Gulf Coast; not so pretty, but a Butterfly magnet. Most folks don’t know V. bonariensis, a bad-ass plant for garden color with a long, long bloom time and an ability like few, to attract so many kinds of Skippers and Butterflies, flies, wasps, bees and such. Real nice.

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I grew about 250 of these last year from seed. Spent ten bucks and ended up with lots of plugs, which I planted and gave away. I used to grow this years ago just for the flowering but I would say it is a solid 10 when it comes to pollinator attraction. It didn’t like it in the areas I burned but it loves to grow, most places that are sunny. Its not a stellar perennial but if you plant several they will hang on for some time; years. I found a stand of this plant with Charles Allen once in Newton County Texas at an old home site where the home was gone and the soil sandy and that is likely why it persisted so many years. Howabout dat.

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I know you have been waiting to see my life-size carboard cut-out Blue Hawaii Elvis so I placed him, for scale, in front of the Verbena bonariensis in the garden. Thank you ver’ much.

I posted a youtube vid with the Gulf Fritillary that was hangin’ out at the garden yesterday. There were lots of different Skipper Butterflies working the flowers.

 

 

the MD Anderson-Mays Center and Steve n’ Jake pocket prairies

Pocket prairie is a term used for describing small prairie gardens.  By small, I mean postage stamp size to a few or more acres in size. You can find pocket prairies all over the place. Two really good ones that I saw this week are the M.D. Anderson, Mays Center prairie garden in the Medical Complex area in east Houston and the Steve and Jake Pollinator Habitat Garden at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

Both of these were planted just a couple of years ago. Both are stellar examples of backyard habitats in high profile locations.

The two-acre Mays Center garden is located in the heart of a huge complex of medical centers and is a natural area where not much else is natural. Dominant in native grasses but full of colorful flowering prairie plants, the gardens are a quiet area for contemplation. Its an outdoor park with a focus on native grassland vegetation of the Houston region.

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From above, the prairie areas are in darker green color, mostly to the left of this googleearth image.

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nice lines are made, with turgrass meeting prairie

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a couple of interpretive signs speak of the flora, fauna, and historical content.

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the Mays gardens were controlled burned last year

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American Bachelor Button is a fun plant to play with. It is easy from seed as a winter annual and it very showy and very fragrant (above). They close up in the afternoon (left) and open in the morning time (right). click to enlarge

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a wallow was created to quench wildlife’s thirsts.

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a nice Carex sedge, maybe an esculentus, odoratus relative

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Yellow Indian grass beginning to flower

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The Texas Blue Bell and Button Snakeroot were planted throughout. I understand that the seed for planting this prairie came the recent grass-roots-acquired-preserve; the Deer Park Prairie. Jaime Gonzales, who worked on this project via the Katy Prairie Conservancy and the Coastal Prairie Partnership, also help to spearhead the purchase of Deer Park. Deer Park is a wonderful prairie remnant that was slated for destruction, construction. The People took action and raised the money to purchase Deer Park and prevented its demise. What a happy story.

The Steve and Jake Garden at the University of Louisiana,  Lafayette, is a great contrast to the Mays Center garden. It is one that people all around the region can emulate, right in their own front yard.

The Steve and Jake Garden is at the northwest entrance to Hamilton Hall on the UL Lafayette campus. From what Professor Jim Foret told me, Steve Nevitt and Jake Delahousseye got seed and grew plants and planted them all in the two areas on each side of the walkway leading into the doorway area. came out nice, guys. Did ya’ll have some help? I hope they’ll comment here.

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Maestro Jim Foret stands in front of the Steve n’ Jake garden at Hamilton Hall, ULL, Lafayette.

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opposite the garden is an Oak that Maestro Jim’s Daddy planted back in 1952. Cule.

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looking west at sprawling Eastern Gamma grass reaching out to touch passers by.

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There’s a really classy brick edge that’s really wide wrapping around the garden edge. Behind is a bench-like architectural structure, which edges the backside very nicely.

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a cacophony (dat’s a lot, ya’ll) of floral color, including the erect, beautifully blue leaves of Yellow Indian grass (above, right).

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click on this photo to enlarge it, above

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Hibiscus large and small

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and Sunflowers…

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a large Mamou plant has an island unto itself

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and then we took the State prairiemobile to see the State highway planting demonstration plot for Department of Transportation along highway 90. Ryan Duhon, with DOT has been diligently spraying and prepping the site. Jim and Ryan were able to get a plan together a year or so ago for planting a cool prairie near the large Live Oak that was saved by DOT from destruction, Mr. Al, the Live Oak Tree. Al looked great and so did the prep work so far! another pocket prairie, to be seeded in November.

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Highway 90 east of New Iberia, Louisiana (the Berry) will be the new home of a demo Cajun Prairie, near the famous but modest Mr. Al, the Live Oak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeper of the Flame

If you’ve ever been to Kisatchie National Forest, the Vernon District, you probably have a good idea of what the natural Pine landscape in Louisiana and the Gulf Coastal Plain looked like a hundred years ago, minus some big trees and Buffalo. If you haven’t seen Kisatchie before, pack up tomorrow morning and get an early start to the 25th Annual Bogs and Birds Brown Bag event with Dr Baygall, himself, Charles M Allen. Dr. Allen has attended and or hosted this event for 25 years. He is known as one of the leading authorities on Pine Baygalls and Bogs. He is an amazingly kind botany field trip leader and he has a catalog of great jokes about plants. What could be better!? Seeing cool orchids and lush pine prairie landscapes, shaded white-sand creeks. ah Lou’siana! see the link for more on this very fun and informative event hosted in the great outdoors- in the open beauty of the fire-touched pine lands of west-central Louisiana. Hope to see you all there…

see cool details of this brilliant guy’s creative mind in “events” below

http://www.lnps.org/newsletter2/LNPS%20Summer%202014%20newsletter.pdf

Mac Vidrine speaks/ and 6 thoughts on I-55 for MS and LA DOT

See below, an hour long presentation by one of my major mentors, Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, biologist-naturalist-prairie ecologist. You will enjoy this if you are a friend of the soil. Its a How and Why on Butterfly gardening and Monarching in Louisiana…..   Malcolm practices his Black Belt form on camera!

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click on the above pic,  and see Asclepias viridis at the Bogue Chitto, Mississippi exit on Interstate-55, looking north at 7:30 a.m.

State highway mowing-management in Louisiana and Mississippi needs advice from the perspective of an ecologist or three

I did some 70 mph botanizing, on my trip for work to West Monroe, La. Monday. I made a few stops to photograph and to do some brief on-the-ground botanizing as well. On the way back, I rode the part of Interstate 55, from Brookhaven, Ms. to Hammond, La for the second time that day. There was some stark differences in the landscape, between the Loosiana side and the Mississip side of I-55.

I made a few observations.

1. Why does the State mow this early along the highways?

The Mississip side of the state line, from above Brookhaven to McComb, was just filthy with Green Milkweed. There were thousands and thousands of plants, some of the most beautiful stands I have seen in a single day’s time; mile after mile of it. The Louisiana end, from Hammond to MacComb had been mowed about a month before. It was mostly void of flowering plants; thirty miles of Milkweeds swimming in species richness vs. thirty miles of no Milkweeds and almost flowering plants.

The Louisiana end looked like a golf course rough, and if you blurred your vision, it looked like a golf course fairway, a really slick lawn. The Mississip side was chocked full of flowering splendor. There were painterly sweeping strokes of the bright golden yellow of Coreopsis lanceolata, the Lance Leaf Corepsis, Coreopsis tomentosa, The Hairy Coreopsis, the clear-white of Erigeron Philidelphicus, the Showy Daisy Fleabane. There were possibly hundreds of millions of tiny purpley Verbena rigida and tenuisecta flowers, and most definitely hundreds of millions of umbel-buds of Sinecio tomentosus, Wooly Golden Ragwort, one of the prized and cherished, most beautiful of the perennial wildflowers in our fair state, especially in those numbers, the populations are phenomenal.

Crossing from the Loosiana border across to the Mississip border, I felt like Dorothy stepping into Land of Oz.

The mowing in late March of the Louisiana side brought the vegetation down to six inches, which triggered a vegetative reaction (new growth). It also exposed the soil to direct sunlight, which heated up the soil early-on, which totally shut down the groovy vegetation and spurred the growth of things that will come much later, on the Mississip side.

The sad part is its just a matter of a week or so before the mowers hit I-55 Interstate systems. They’ve just been held up by our persistent rains. I saw them working in full force on I-20.

2. the argument for mowing the highways (and I have heard it from the horse’s mouth), is that it is a safety concern/hazard because of the height of the vegetation. Right now, the only species that is at all tall is an occasional Thistle, maybe one or ten thistles every ten acres. Does a thistle every now and then constitute an entire mowing of ten thousand acres? Probly not.

I agree with the idea of mowing in late May or June, but right now, the vegetation where it hasn’t been mowed is only about six inches higher that where it has been mowed. I say bully bully. I say wait until the Milkweeds are done fruiting before mowing commences. This will likely benefit the Milkweeds, no?

3. The DOT needs an ecologist muscleman on staff or as a consultant, to guide their management strategies. DOT is the largest manager of land in the state and should be run as such, with an ecological approach hammered into the program.

The reason there is not an ecological approach to highway management is that the DOT would have to change their activity schedule and reduce mowing. They’d have to give up spraying their unwise herbicide use and if they didn’t mow, they’d hear it from Senator such-and-such and all the other mow-happy folks in the state via telephone or email. I am told DOT people get a lot of flack from folks when they don’t mow so its a quandary.

I am all about safety and federal guidelines on the Interstate highway system but these folks are seriously misguided and have very big guns (budgets). They know that if they reduce their management, they’ll loose money and all state departments always want more money.

4. Reduce herbicides in the landscape

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above, When they spray over the railings on steep slopes, they are causing dead vegetation and excouraging soil erosion. This costs money to fix.

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Miles and miles of herbicide sprayed along the Mississippi (Milkweed) side of the border. It is simply bad planning, in my opinion to install the protective rails so close to the highway edge. This makes for an unsafe environment for highway workers and a difficult zone to manage, so close to the highway. It should be placed in the middle of the median. Bad form on design, MDOT. And the herbicides just kill perennial grasses and forbs and encourage weedy, tall annuals. Any horticulturist knows that. You’re making the vegetation more weedy by spraying.

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above, the beauty of Verbena rigida and Senecio tomentosus, near McComb, Mississippi. click on the photos to enlarge ’em.

5. Engineers know engineering, Landscape Architects know landscape architecture, but do either know that this is a beautiful natural garden that does not need mowing this early in the growing season?

Apparently not.

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above, the very beautiful but highly invasive Cogon grass, on I-59, south of Picayune, April 22, 2015. The seed of Cogon grass is maturing and about to float away on its journey to find bare soil to connect with. Spraying now is easy for crews to do since it is now that it is so highly visible. Ideally it should be sprayed just before seed heads mature to this point (four or five days ago, every year).

6. Cogon grass, our worst invasive plant, a horrible offender, a grass that is moving more rapidly across Louisiana now, as it did in Mississippi, since the mid-1990’s, will be impacting the economy of the Louisiana (as it has in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi). The state has a resonsibility to be vigilent in its efforts to contain it on their rights of way. They are the stewards of our roadways and they should be focusing on Cogon when it is just about to fruit, right now; spraying the dickens out of it. After all, this is the only time a crew of sprayers can identify and shoot at it to kill. Our roadways are the corridors that the fluffy travel-for-miles-seeds of Cogon grass moves. Put the crews out spraying Cogon instead of mowing our lovely wildflower gardens. Get productive, DOT!

I think I’ve said enough.