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. 🙂
Spotted Horse Mint is a highly aromatic plant with all parts having a pleasant citrusy scent.
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?
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.
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.
Sabatia, Rose Gentian, above
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.
above Liatirs, Blazing Star, and a very happy Gulf Fritillary butterfly, foreground, with a Switch grass mass, in background.
Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly
(photos by Arboretum Interpretive Ranger Kim Hollier)
Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint – pollinator plant profile
Mt. Mint flowering clusters make a good landing pad for butterflies
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.
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)
In Louisiana, its generally out of the river flood plain parishes, but just about everywhere else. (source Vascular Flora of Louisiana)
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!
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
saweet! Impressed, huh!
a nice patch of mature Bothriochloa, above
a stand of Florida Paspalum has arrived on the scene, above
…and the first Rough Leaf Goldenrod will bloom this year…yay!
some good sized polulations of Clustered Bushmint _Hyptis alata
and some Spotted Horsemint, too…
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
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.
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)
Liatris pycnostachya, remnant prairie, Cameron Parish, Louisiana
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
Sept 24-25 Prairie Conference – Lafayette, La
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 @ firstname.lastname@example.org