Eunice prairie demonstration gardens tour, April 4

The Cajun Prairie folks will hold their spring wildflower tour on April 4th, celebrating the prairie, lead by the two pioneering biologists who started the Eunice Prairie Restoration garden nearly twenty eight years ago. In my opinion, this is one of the top 3 public garden destinations in the state of Louisiana. Society members burned the site for the first time in two years this February and we had an intense fire as a result. It is always a beautiful site to see the prairies during the first week of April, at peak spring bloom; not much created by man in these parts compares. Imagine ten acres of the most beautiful garden you can conceive of and thats pretty much what you’ll see at Eunice in April. Remember Dorothy and friends in The Wizard of Oz walking through the poppy fields? Well, its much better than that. Heavenly, hallowed ground it is.

From this site, this planting, much of the research on seeded prairie landscaping in the Gulf South has been garnered. Many scientific papers have been produced via this single experiment. And many prairies have been produced with seed from it. This is a preserve managed for the conservation of Louisiana Tall grass prairie genetic ecotypes. (click on photos to enlarge, photos by Dawn Allen McMillian and myself)

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sensitive briar, Mimosa quadravalvis

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Phlox pilosa color variations

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awesome rare wild onion, Allium mobilense

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blue eyed grass

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Cardinal on a burnt twig

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there are tens of thousands of Baptisia in the ten acre Eunice Restored Prairie, many of them unique, rare, natural hybrids

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Praying Mantis

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white false indigo, Baptisia alba

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Baptisia bracteata

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Gulf Fritillaries on passiflora vine

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The tour will begin at the Duralde restored prairie, a 350 acre prairie collaboration between the the Cajun Prairie Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lacassine NWR. There you can see lots of acreage of natural coastal Tallgrass prairie seeded in 1995-6 and transplanted with rescue plants over many years from the now extinct Frey prairie remnant, just south of Eunice by the Society and other volunteers. There you can walk through seeded experiments and demonstration gardens planted as a research project in 1998. There’s also the two-acre demonstration garden designed by Dr. Charles Allen and myself, which will is unique to the southeastern U.S., an individual prairie species garden with 10 x 12 feet rectangular plots for all of the conservative species of the prairie to be managed in a mowed- grid form. This area was burned this year, first time in a few.

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The 2-acre Duralde demo garden, November 2015. At two years old, its just a pup.

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Dr. Charles M. Allen, biologist, horticulturist, Sept 2014

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Dr. Malcolm F Vidrine, left, biologist, horticulturist, April 2014

Program for Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society Spring Meeting and Tours-Saturday, April 4, 2015

8:00 AM: Tours of Duralde Restored Prairie. Directions: Take LA 13 north out of Eunice and after crossing a bridge, go about 1.5 miles and turn left onto La 374. If coming from the north on La 13, about 6 miles south of Mamou, just past the Fire Station, turn right onto La 374. Follow La 374 west and it will take a sharp right then a sharp left. After straightening out from the sharp left, go about 0.5 miles and turn left at the first double intersection.  You will be turning left onto a gravel road that is Navy Road.

Navy Road is about 2 miles from La 13. Follow Navy Road and it will take a sharp right and then will start a sharp left but you will not turn at the left but drive straight into Duralde Prairie.

10:00 AM: Eunice Restored Prairies; meet at the corners of Martin Luther King and East Magnolia and enjoy the best restored prairie in the United States. This site is north of U.S. 190 and east of La 13. For those of you coming from the north on La 13, turn left (east) at the first paved road (East Magnolia) to the east after you cross the railroad tracks in Eunice. Go a couple of blocks and the prairie is on your left. For those coming from the east on U.S. 190 turn right (north) at the first red/green traffic light and follow Martin Luther King Drive for a couple of blocks and the prairie is on your left. For those coming from the west on U.S. 190, follow U.S. 190 through Eunice and after crossing a railroad track, go to the next red/green traffic light and turn left onto Martin Luther King Drive (See above). For those coming from the south on La 13, when you reach the stop sign, turn right onto Maple Ave. Follow Maple for about 3 or 4 blocks and at the 2nd four way stop sign, turn left onto Martin Luther King Drive. Follow this street across U.S. 190 and see above.

12 noon Lunch at Rocky’s Restaurant located at 1415 E Laurel Ave, Eunice, LA 70535 (337) 457-6999. and

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society meeting.

And the presentation

“Bring Back the Monarchs” by the Bug Lady, Linda Auld of New Orleans

 

For more details about the meeting and or tours, contact Dr. Charles Allen 337-328-2252 or email native@camtel.net.

 

 

 

horticulture-worthy strains of native grasses for Gulf-influenced landscapes

One of the best things to happen to me in my working career is to have been influenced by a bunch of keen plant people who appreciated and promoted genetic diversity. This influence has helped me see the plants in the landscape with a more discerning eye.

By having the gift of spending time in natural areas, I’ve come across some noteworthy strains of plants that I believe have horticultural promise. Some are genetically unique individuals like you and I and some are entire populations of a single species in a particular location, noticeably different than the typical. Some are just normal, run-of-the-mill.

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Pioneering prairie ecologist Dr. Charles Allen and myself at Chapapeela Sports Park last Sunday in Hammond, Louisiana, checking out for the first time, the lushness of frosted-awesome prairie seeded two years ago in November. Without Charles and his side-kick Dr. Mac Vidrine (and other concerned Biologists), this, and other fabulous prairie gardens around the Gulf Coast region could not have been conceived. photo by Jeff McMillian

Here are a few Central Gulf Coastal plains species and strains worth mentioning:

Switch grass– Switch grass is highly variable in the landscape. Often, when you see lots of it, you’ll see short and tall, upright and rounded, narrow-leafed and wide bladed, blue-leaved and green-leaved. You’ll see variations in color and texture in inflorescence (flower), too. I have a nice dwarf one in my garden that grows about three feet tall in fruit. cule. the old timey selection, Heavy Metal, has been a commonly available cultivar (genetic anomaly) in the hort trade since the mid-1990’s. Northwind, a selection from up above the Mason-Dixon, is an upright and tall form that stays at attention, like a soldier. Cloud Nine is another I’ve grown for many years, getting my first plant from Niche Gardens in the late 1990’s. Its a big sucker, nine ft tall (Get it?) about that wide, too. Dallas Blue I’ve had for several years now and its of course its blue foliaged and decent in that it doesn’t flop and kind of rounded in form and medium texture. A decent plant. I think the perfect Switch for gardens is a fat-fat leaved one about three feet tall and wide, but I haven’t come across it yet. Gail Barton of Meridian Mississippi found a killer selection of Switch on Highway 45 south of Brooksville, Mississippi a few years ago. It is a beautiful grass, a beautiful plant. Its steely blue foliage with a large form about five feet, in inflorescence and a nice fine textured effect when in fruit. The cool thing about Switch grass is you can do large areas from seed really easily. We offer a mix of Switch seed from populations in the Cajun Tallgrass Prairie of Southwest Louisiana. In two years time, you can produce acres of Switch in robust, nearly mature stands.

Little Bluestem grass is said to be (or used to be) the most common sun-loving grass in in uplands(out of the wet) in East Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It is a high-conservative species, worthy more ornamental use. Northern climate American are and have been selecting for this plant for many years and because of that, people are using them and making economic benefits in horticulture and commerce. We down here in the South are contemplating the matter still. This is an vertically inclined plant plant, its prolific and the beauty of it is more obvious in numbers. You wouldn’t plant a single Bluestem plant in a garden. You’d plant twenty or forty at a time, for effect. There’s strength in numbers, you know. You use Little Bluestem en masse as a element in the landscape. I prairie ecology, little Bluestem is a climax species, providing copies amounts of plants that proliferate in the landscape and when managed well, become a sod. Foliage and stem characteristics are where Little Blue got its name; Blue stems with red nodes and sometimes, the blue color is absent and shades of green dominate a stand. Sometimes the blue color is so intense it looks silver colored. In November, after first frost, Little Blue turns Little Red, and late in winter turns Little Tan. The functional value though is where Little Blue captures its niche. It provides ecological services abound. An interesting note is that Little Bluestem, below I-10 in the Cajun Prairie is associated with facultative wetland species. Normally it is considered a non’-wet loving plant but obviously genetics have adapted to wet ecotones.

Broomsedge/ Virginia Bluestem – since Little Bluestem has been so devastated, Broomsedge (not a sedge at all) is now probably the most common sun-loving upland grass in Louisiana. Its an early succession plant, moved out (in a restoration) by late succession species, Little Blue, typically. However, Broomsedge has some relevance as far as landscaping and horticulture is concerned. It can be managed in perpetuity if done with some skill. It has a most colorful presence in the landscape in the winter; an unusual reddish tan colored foliage, different than Little Blue, and of a slightly different texture. Its easily distinguished by its flattened stem nodes.

Split Beard Bluestem –Split Beard is very similar in habit and form to Little Blue until it blooms and fruits. When in fruit, the trained eye can pick it out of a line-up from a couple of hundred feet way. On I-20, if you happen to catch it in fruit before the mowers come, it creates a cottony, visually-dazzling landscape, whipped by the wind of the semi trucks. The fruit persists for a month or two. A cool, cool plant for horticulture and wildlife.

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above: Split Beard Bluestem in fruit and in the field. click on photo to enlarge

Dwarf Elliots Bluestem -Elliot’s Blue is rarely, if ever, dwarf, but there is a stand of a dwarf strain that I have been closely monitoring for two seasons, now, at a restoration in Louisiana that has horticultural promise for the Gulf coastal plain since most of our Bluestem species get really tall, especially in a garden soil with no root-space competition. An interesting thing is that when you see either Split Beard or Elliot’s, you generally see the other in close proximity. Elliot’s Blue has a similar habit to Little Blue until it blooms and fruits. Its really obvious when the fruit is on board. Fruits are wrapped in an elongated three inch sheath, something quasi-similar to a jack-in-the-pulpit arrangement. A very distinctive identifiable trait. No Bluestems look like it. The dwarf strain is obviously different than typical, and everything else around it is of normal height and form. This is obviously a strain that comes true from seed, hence the size of the stand (presently about 30 x 50 feet).

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above: Elliot’s Bluestem in fruit, and the dwarf stand, about two feet tall.

Dwarf Indian grass -Indian grass is a great prairie garden plant. It is a runner of sorts, but politely so. Again, like with most native grasses planted in a garden situation with loose soil and no root competition, the height and width can double or more, compared to the normal competitive-prairie size. In the competitive world of the prairie, Indian is polite and docile, and only grows a tuft of grass about a foot or so high, with nearly invisible floral stems to six feet, topped with highly attractive and colorful infloresnces. Yellow Indian grass is the common name for this plant since the flower heads are bright and yellowy, robust and unusually large considering the stem diameter. Indian is highly variable genetically with a variety of genetic strains coming from a handful of seed. Often there are steely blue colorations of foliage and differing leaf forms and sizes.

Dr. Susan Barton, U of Delaware (http://canr.udel.edu/faculty/barton-susan/) has made some wonderful discoveries conduction planting experiments with Indian grass. She told me about how she preps the planting area by spraying herbicide repeatedly and then mixes Indian grass seed with saw dust. Then lays the sawdust-seed mix across the ground an inch thick and voila! Instant Indian grass prairie!!!!!

Dwarf Indian in my seed field -years ago, a friend, Gail Baron (yard flower.com), gave me a few cups of Indian grass with origin, as I recall, from somewhere in Mississippi. I planted it out and it has proven to be a particularly dwarf strain. Nice.

Love grass (there are many species) – Love grass should be a good marketable plant just because of its name. It is a very short-statured grass, much wider than its one foot height. Work should be done on this plant simply because it has such a short overall height. And it comes up readily from seed.

Three Awn grass -Aristidas are feathery, fine textured and rather attractive native grasses that create puffs of color and texture in the landscape. Some come up readily from seed. These are relative to the Wire grass, Aristida strict, so common and dominant in Florida and Georgia pine lands but absent from west Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Generally dwarf in size, most often, about a foot high, wispy and vertical; moved by the slightest breeze. Purty. The best one for horticulture is A. purpurascens.

Narrow Leaf Bluestem – a most promising garden plant and lawn substitute, Schizachyrium tenerum has a short and rounded form with needly-thin leaves, growing about a foot high and 30 inches wide. Its distribution range is a fairly small area, the central  Gulf coast, mainly, with some disjunct populations, east, in eastern Georgia and North Carolina and west to Corpus Christi, Texas. Narrow Leaf Blue is unique in that it is one of the species in the Coastal Prairie of Louisiana (Cajun Prairie) that separates the Tall grass prairie of the midwest from the Tallgrass prairies of the Gulf Coast region. It has something to do with the Gulf influenced coastal pine lands intergrading with the Tallgrass prairie. Its a true Southerner.

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above: Distribution range of Schiz ten

Pineland Dropseed, Sporobolus junceus -what a beautiful and very useful grass this plant is! A favorite of mine. It graced my prairie seed catalogue cover years ago. Prairie Dropseed casts a wide net horticulturally for the potential it has for use in gardens, home and urban prairie landscapes and especially for the no-mow or low-mow native lawn. This plant is so petite, a tiny thing, that gets about six or eight inches in height and maybe a little less wide. The inflorescences are erect barely visible, they’re so thin and fine in texture. Very interesting. Its a clumping tuft with fine textured foliage and is delightful to find en masse in the wild. Am presently working on plantings of it for demonstrations for the last couple of years.

Brownseed Paspalum -Brownseed is a great early succession nurse crop for strarting a prairie garden since it comes on early in dominance and stays until competition moves it out to a lesser roll in the prairie landscape. A good wildlife plant but not much on the eyes. Most folks would say it looks like Bahia grass but it is quite different, actually. Much thinner inflorescences and fruit clusters. Its another Gulf coastal species mostly, with reach into northern area outside the coastal plain. Adaptable from Texas to the Carolinas.

Side Oats Gramma (or Side Oats Grammaw grass)– Boutaloua curtipendula isn’t supposed to be in Louisiana but Botanist Chris Reid showed me a killer naturally occurring stand last year in Cameron Parish, a stone’s throw from the Gulf. He and another expert told me that that is an anomaly and that that stand is probably something that came from seed sowed for forage. I dunno. However, its growing like a weed in the Louisiana coastal Parish of Cameron! That’s big news folks. Big potential there in that genetic strain. I went to collect some seed and or plants last year and it had just been nuked by the Highway dept. or county road crews. Bummer, dude. This species (and for us, this strain) has incredible potential for low-mow, no-mow lawns and is a great garden plant. The closest place to find it naturally near us, other than in Cameron Parish stand is in the Black Belt prairie region where it is not common at all, rare. These Black Belt genetics have potential for trial also, in heavier, higher Ph soils like New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

Eastern Gamma –is a big, big plant. Its a large textured, pale green leaved, rounded plant with flower spikes that radiate outwardly and above the foliage in all directions, from the center. An ancient relative of the corn plant, if you suck on the seed a bit, you’ll see it even tastes like corn. Voted a better plant for bio-fuel than Switch because of its higher sugar content, its also an ornamental plant of note. It can be grown easily from seed but is not as fast as say, Switch grass. But in three years time, you can easily grow several acres by seed and save tons of plant costs while creating large swaths of grassy landscape. Super good fire generator and an excellent wildlife food and cover plant. Also, ook into the use of its far-southern first cousin Florida Gamma grass, rare in the wild but common now via conservation, on highways and shopping mall parking lots in south Florida, Miami area. Cool beans. I have a nice stand of about fifty maturing plants in my home garden here in Covington, trying it out. It seems to be tough as its cousin for me so far.

Go! Micro-Prairies!!!!!

 

 

Industrial building in Jackson, Miss. to get LEED prairie landscape

Drove to the farm yesterday to pick up tools for the burn at Eunice today, while en route to the first landscape construction meeting for a new huge foods distribution facility being built just east of the Jackson Mississippi. While I was at the farm, I planted some Long Leaf seedlings that Rick Webb got for me to add another generation of pines into the seed fields. I’m trying to get the ambiance there just right. But seriously, I want the pine needle fuel for hotter fires. This will help with suppression of woody encroachment and for increased biodiversity. Plus, long Leaf Pine is about the most beautiful plant. I am getting some seedlings showing-up from the fifteen year old Momma plants I planted way back when so the new seedlings will have company with their distant cousins.

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Long Leaf pines got their feet in the ground, were smiling at me when I left them 🙂

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did a lot of work this year at the farm. can’t wait to see it all in June.

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our burn and seeding work in October is greening-up the ground

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old plants of Penstemon digitalis and laevigata rosetting-up

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Little Bluestem, green, green.

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narrow-leaf Mountain Mint, yum, yum

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Monarda, Monarda, Monarda

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massive Jackson building gets prairie troupe'(in golden-brown) at the entrance, the north side basically, of the plan. Four acres! click to enlarge the design

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probably fifteen acres of steel building. Holy bovine!

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Trent Rhodes, the Landscape Architect who did the landscape design, called me three years ago to consult on the general idea regarding the prairie landscape. We will be working on construction and management of it until its well established in spring of 2018. Amen, Amen.

I remember many years ago, when I had first started my work with native prairie, I was attending the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference. In conversation with a friend, Plato Touliatos, he said to me, “I didn’t know there was a market for prairie landscaping in Mississippi”. I told him “There isn’t, I intend to build one”.

wow. Thanks to all the people and the powers that be that got me to this point here during my stay on the planet. What a wild ride it has been and how grateful I am for the experience.

 

a tiny cool-plant herb garden/ article mention in New Orleans Magazine

Its a tiny garden at our house here in Covington that I’ve enjoyed immensely. Sixteen feet long and about eight feet wide, is all. It has some good garden plants in it, many of which are natives; some not. Just planted this time last year after I cleared out what was there, during the previous summer. Below is a crude drawing of it followed by a species list and a series of photos through the last year. At the very bottom is a link to the New Orleans magazine article on Charlotte and Jean Seidenberg’s garden and home in Covington, Louisiana.

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1. Leersia oryzoides   Rice grass

2. Stokesia “peachie’s pick”

3. Eryngium yuccafolium  Button Snakeroot

4. Boxwood hedge, I wish I had planted dwarf yaupon instead ha what was I thinking?

5. Conradina canescens, Coastal Rosemary, and Phlox pilosa, “Forest Frost” Phlox

6. Manfreda veriegata ‘Will Fleming”, Mottled Manfreda

7. Pycnanthemum alsbescens “Malcolm’s Spearmint” and “Early Bird” Rudbeckia fulgida

8. Salvia X Amastad

9. existing old chines fan Palm

10. Saturjea georgiana, Georgia Savory

11. Hymenocallis liriosme, Spider Lily

12. Aster dumosus, Rice Button Aster

13. Monarda fistulosa, Bee Balm

14. Phlox Pilosa ‘Forest Frost”

15. Rudbeckia subtomentosa, Sweet Black Eyed Susie

16. post pedestals (3)

17. Sorgastrum nutans “Cajun Prairie”, Indian Grass

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above, I had put the boxes and the pedestals in a year or two earlier, click on the photo to enlarge it

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some bamboo canes surrounding the garden to keep “critters” out, poor Monty 😦

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Saturjea and White leafed Mountain Mint in bloom to the left and Salvia Amastad, purple at top, with barely visible Salvia Coccinea “white form”, to the left of the far left pedestal. Native Rosemary at immediate foreground

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rich textural stuff going-on

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Sweet Blackeyed Susan, Rudbeckia subtomentosa in its glory. my cherished old timey Petunia is in late summer growth spurt and a few blooms on it. How fragrant-sweet it is.

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Subtomentosa all-done blooming, in about October

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above, This morning, enjoying the deadness, and the living

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Sokesia, in summer

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Sweet leaf Rudbeckia, in August

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Native Rosemary

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Manfreda at planting, one year ago

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Manfreda variegata foliage summer

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Manfreda foliage this morning, February 3

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out this world flowering part of the Texas-native Manfreda variegata, five feet off the ground, about july

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Salvia “white form”

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my son Cale’s “twister” pot and my “family” sculpture

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an old favorite, the heavy scented, old old time petunia

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the obscure but notable Leersia orysoides, settled in on its own and I have cared for it

Here’s the link to New Orleans magazine’s article

http://www.myneworleans.com/New-Orleans-Magazine/February-2015/The-Art-of-Nature/

 

 

 

converting a 15 year old Chinese Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle and Sweet Gum forest into a magical flowery prairie lawn

Well, from what I hear, everybody wants to know how to change from a mega-shrub-scrub patch to a high quality natural grassland-wildflower area. Okay, well not everybody wants to know but there are a few of you out there in left field who do.

First thing to know is that it aint easy-peazy.

The project can be a little easier if you’re changing from herb vegetation to herb vegetation, rather than from forested, woody vegetation to herb vegetation. Trees can be much more difficult to deal with than herbage, so the labor requirements can be more intensive, more laborious. Hauling off trees is tuff stuff.

But that didn’t stop me.

I’m like, up to the challenge. I’m Prairie Dog, after all. Defender of the Prairie.

I planted Long Leaf pines on much of my new twelve-acre property that I bought back in 1997. The intent was to plant scattered pines with a ground cover of fine fuels, or pine prairie. I wanted to create a beautiful landscape. There’s one area, about 80 feet by 80 feet that I never got a chance to plant. I figured I’d get to it later. The pines have grown to be awesome and giant. Seeing them brings back memories of pleasant days when my two boys were still boys, helping Pop plant little pine seedling plugs. Joel was 13 and Cale was ten.

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above: Some of the pines are now twenty and twenty five feet tall and I am now finding an occasional seedling in the “grass” stage, generated from the Momma trees.

So on this 80 by 80 piece of land, I started two years ago, working on killing Chinese Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle, and Gum and salvaging the Pines. I began the process of changing the landscape from overrun scrub to pine prairie.

I got out the big guns on the big Gums. Say that really fast ten times.

My buddy and neighbor Terry Johnson, a great guy who grew up on a farm in Iowa and can engineer anything, helped me re-rig my old tree sprayer. He and I worked to change the power plant on the rig from running via two-cycle lawn mower-type engine to being powered via the PTO on my tractor. I got a new PTO pump and we changed it out and built a new platform out of treated lumber to mount the rig onto. We built it so all of this hooked up to the tractor via a three point hitch. I then had a 150 gallon water tank sparyer, ready to go. I would use it for controlled burns and for spraying herbicide. I was now armed and dangerous.

Last summer (2013), I experimented by spraying Round-up on the Privet, Gum and Wax Myrtle. I was careful not to hit the Pines.

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above: last winter, I burned and seeded the area with a Low-Mow seed mixture dominant in low-growing native grasses; Narrow Leaf Bluestem, Pine Land Dropseed, with a tab bit of Elliot’s Bluestem and Split Beard Bluestem. As soon as I finished burning, I sowed the awesome collection of seed.

My friend, Jim McGee, and I cut the trees and scrub off of one area about fifty by thirty feet and planted a sweet mix of No-Mow native lawn there. Most of the stumps regenerated this summer, growing about a foot or so tall. I sprayed 2-4-d and Remedy (trichlopyr) on these regenerated stumps and on the not-fully killed Privet, Gum and Waxes this past summer. This herbicide mix kills everything but the grasses. I killed a lot of plants that day. It left a bunch of standing scrub carcasses baking in the sun like old bones in the desert.

Yesterday, I got busy cutting a new 35 by 30 foot square out of the dead, standing carcasses so I could plant another section of my new Wonderland No-Mow lawn seed mix (for details on this mix, see our blog home page section titled “About Our Local Eco-Type Seed”). I started about 10:00 in the morning and cut and I whacked and I cut and whacked again and by 1:00, I had finished whacking. There was leaf litter on the ground surface so I raked it up to expose bare soil. I got that done and was ready for seed. Folks, it takes two full years of patience, of killing, to get to a point where you are seeding when you’re dealing with beasts like these.

Whoo-hoo! Its a happy day when its done!

I got the area seeded and then stabilized the seed with wheat hay so that the seed wouldn’t go bye-bye in the next rain (its planted on a nice sloped hillside). This hay cover also makes for a more moist condition for seed germination than bare, exposed seed and soil does. Careful: too much hay, not good.

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This is what the biomass looked like before I got a’cuttin’. click on the photos and enlarge to see ’em better. Look at the pines for scale/reference.

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Got the biomass cut and gone, I left the Yaupons because they are nice.

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I raked all of the leaf cover from the ground to expose soil, hauled it off, and then seeded just by dispersing seed onto the ground.

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All done with seeding, I mulched sufficiently to stabilize seed on the slope.

It should be easy going from here. Presto!! Change-o!!! I pull a rabbit from my prairie dog hat!!!!

Come see the progress of this and other cool experiments, old and new, at the annual May field trip at the Farm next year. There aint nuthin’ like it.

Get busy and build a pine prairie No-Mow lawn, folks!! Time’s a’waistin’.

 

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

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

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

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

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God breathes life into Adam, Sistine Chapel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Hunt Prairie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Manfreda virginica in my Frey planting

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

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

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

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

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

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

cool, useful plants, and cool, useful insects

Our old farm land in south Mississippi, in the last sixty years, had been dozed and then terraced, planted with Tung oil trees (in the 1950’s), cleared for cow pasture (in the 1970’s) and then attempt-restored with native wildflower and grasses (in the 1990’s). One of the most abundant plants on the property is one I didn’t plant, the somewhat common Willow Leaf Aster, Aster prealtus. Its a dog-gone pretty thing, with lavender flowers on terminal tips and blooms the third week of October. What I heard from Dr. Malcolm Vidrine recently is that it is one of the most important plants for Monarchs on their migration south on their way to winter in Mexico. Malcolm’s comment stuck with me and gave me a new perspective on what I thought was kind of a weedy plant. I was at the farm yesterday and got to see my fields of Willow Leaf Aster in blazing glory. Its a disturbance oriented plant, it seems, found where some sort of soil activity has occurred. That’s why Aster prealtus is so important, since much of our land these days has been disturbed one way or another and many of the high-end nectar plants are simply gone. Aster prealtus and some others make up for that to some degree.

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Above: Aster (Symphyotrichum) prealtus, Willow Leaf Aster, outstanding in my field, yesterday. click on fotos to enlarge them…

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above, distribution range of Aster prealtus var. prealtus in Louisiana, source Flora of Louisiana, Charles Allen and R. Dale Thomas

Also, this week, I found for the first time, a very happy, Late Purple Aster, Aster patens, growing in a planting I planted 13 years ago this month, at the farm. Whoa! …a new species for the farm! Nice…..   Maybe I just hadn’t noticed it before since a I found a few more just after finding the first.

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Aster patens is a very nice garden plant, a high conservatism species, a 9 on C of C. Tiny flowers and, a delicate thing. Notice how the leaves are wrapped around the stem, a tell-tail ID trait that separates it from many.

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above: Aster lateriflorus, Calico Aster, growing in a highway edge of gravel, with fellow disturbance plants, Bushy Bluestem and Bermuda grass on Highway 25 north of Covington last week. Its nothing but a weed, but a very good weed, indeed.

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Above: on left, Rice Button Aster, Aster Dumosus, one of our most abundant Asters. and its improved horticultural cultivar?  … Aster dumosus “Kristina”, on right.

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distribution range of A. dumosus in Louisiana. Its just about everywhere, folks.
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I took this picture of a very contemplative Monty the Dog, posing next to a short, rounded Rice Button Aster plant and he took this one of me, next to a wily, gigantic Rice Button, at the edge of the pond. Both of these plants showed up as seedlings and were then left to grow.

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above: This is the most-endearing Aster pratensis, growing with Swamp Sunflower, Narrow Leaf Mountain Mint and Little Bluestem grass Cajun Prairie Society Restoration Project, Eunice. A. pratensis and A. concolor are nearly identical, Charles Allen says. Pratensis is to the west of the Mississippi and concolor is to the east. This is a stunningly beautiful flower, big (a little smaller than or about the size of a silver dollar) and a good Mardi Gras color purple, found in high quality late succession natural areas. These would maybe never be considered a marketable ornamental plant because the plant is usually a leaning stalk with a flower or three at the tip. But it seems it could be a parent for horticultural breeding program, huh?

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above: Jim Foret checking the bee hive at the edge of Charles Allen’s butterfly-bee garden, October 8, 2014, Pitkin, Louisiana. Jim donated the hive to Charles’ bee cause. It was a hive of Jim’s friend who thought it was too heavy to work. Jim packed it into his truck one night last spring and drove it up to Vernon Parish to Charles’. He was checking out the interior bee goings-on before winter to see how they were set up with honey. Go Jim!

Along with butterflies and skippers, native bees and the old world honey bees, wasps are also huge fans of Asters. Have asters and have a host of good insect species that will utilize them. Fun stuff.

I am so darned excited about an upcoming building project I can’t stand it!  …my Kenyan salt pond top-bar bee hive construction project. Jim Foret recommended me looking into it since I told him I wanted to have a working hive around but I didn’t want to work the hive much. I searched Kenyan Top Bar and saw a youtube of U.S. Peace Corps youngsters filming a few guys constructing one in Guinea, Africa. check out how easy it is to build and then find a youtube that demonstrates harvesting the honey and comb. It is so complex, the hive workings, but so simple it seems, to build the hive!

Also, check out a recent paper (2004) by Chandra Sara Bartholomew on native bees done at Abita (TNC), Sandy Hollow (USF&W), and Camp Whispering Pines, in the Florida Parishes.   ….excellent paper, excellent insight and has everything to do with native bees.

Click to access Bartholomew_thesis.pdf

 

Pastorek Habitat Blog reaches 10,000 hits, offers exclusive, rare seed

We at Pastorek Habitats (that’s me and Candi), are pleased to announce that after only a year and a half and 120 posts, our blog has officially reached an incredible 10,000 viewers: people like yourself. We’ve had views from all over the world: Brazil, France, Great Britian, Viet Nam (really?), Portugal, Turkey, and of all places, Georgia(the Russian neighbor, not the Florida one). This 10,000-hit milestone coincides with our newly developed and very awesome offerings of ecotype seed mixes but also a couple of new, exclusive individual species for the meadow and garden.

We offer in limited quantity, seed of Winkler’s Fire Wheel and Malcolm F. Vidrine’s spearmint scented White Leaf Mountain Mint (Malcolm Mint).

Check into the seed selections on our home page under the title “About Our Seed”.

…and enjoy!

And thanks so much for tuning in, folks!!!!!! We hope to continue to bring you informative wild stuff for many years to come via the interweb!  see ya! 🙂

 

Iberia Parish’s Matt Conn makes New York Times with his wetland restoration project + 120 acres, dripping, oozing in wondrous herbicidedness + a holy-cow prairie remnant!!!

I was treated to the wondrous sight Tuesday of the project property where the mother load, 700 pounds, of wet-coastal prairie seed, seed that I have been collecting this summer, will be planted. The vegetation was nice and toasty brown, the color of awesome death. Yummy!! Boy did this make me (and my seed) happy. 🙂

After all, why would anyone work so hard and stake so much investment in money, seed and time only to see in three or so years that it all was wasted because the right prep work wasn’t done? I would rather see the weedy vegetation totally-wasted, and my seed, so precious and rare, and so hard to acquire, given a proper chance for survival. No, this seed deserves an opportunity for a long and healthy life.

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above, looking west from the center of the property in southern Calcasieu Parish (click pic to enlarge)

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above, looking north ……and into the bright future…

After the visit to the planting site, I was then lead by a good friend and mentor across the creek (the Calcasieu River) to see what he said was definitively “the most significant coastal prairie site in the state”. This coming from a fellow who at his early age, has just about seen it all. Pretty sure he was right with that claim, after seeing it with my own eyes. It was an old cattle farm property that had never been plowed, complete with monstrous pimple mounds, low prairie, and an occasional marias, all filled with premier prairie vegetation and very little, almost no, foreign invaders. On the pimple mounds were the high and dry species, some common in the Looziana sandy piney woods. At the base of and surrounding the mounds were the heavy-soil low-land species. And in the marias were the marginal aquatic and aquatic species, all thick like hair on a dog’s back. We walked through dense vegetation. We worked for our reward since it was a good, hot day albeit a bit over cast and a long way to go. We made a large loop with many smaller dipseydoodle-loops through what I’m guessing was about ten to fifteen acres or more of land and saw only a small portion of what was there to be seen. When we were done, we were both dripping wet, soaked to our boots. Had a good work-out/ detox! Spent over two hours ooh-ing and ah-ing. I am not sure who was more excited, he or I. In April, he and his colleagues had used fire in the way of controlled burn, to breathe new life into this amazingly diverse prairie remnant, something it had not seen for many many years.

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My friend Chris in Little Bluestem grass, with tall, wiry spikes of Florida Paspalum in foreground. On right, the milkweed Asclepias obovata, with the foliage (above my hand) of Twisted leaf Goldenrod, Solidago tortifolia (click on pics to enlarge ’em, ya’ll)

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Twisted leaf Goldenrod just barely coming into color on left (it was stunningly electric), and the chalky blue of Andropogon virginicus var. glaucopsis, Blue leafed Broomsedge. Can you say drool?

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above, a sea of Solidago tortifolia and Liatris pychnostachya, and an odd-ball colored Pychnostach of thousands there, a lighter shade of pnerple!

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Chris, wading through the pycnostach, and the whiteness of Eupatorium hissopifolia on right (a pod of passion vine in my hand). num num!

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Pinky-purple Muhly grass in color with a crispy-black skeletal remains of a juvenile wax myrtle in foreground/ right

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the daisy-like Bidens aristosa, umbels of twisted leaf Goldenrod, spikey liatris and barely visible naked inflorescences of Florida Paspalum

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above, yours truly in a marias pothole, about an acre in diameter. I went straight for the center where the Eliocharis quadrangularis was. How cool is this folks?!!!! Water was about six inches deep throughout the pothole.

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dried up leaves of American Lotus, amongst the dense, lush foliage of Panicum hemitomum. “Lotus in a prairie”, said the Zen master.

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Chris and I agreed that we both had never seen anything close to this size of a stand of the delightful mint, Hyptis alata, Cluster Bushmint. This is a highly significant plant, attractive to numerous nectaring insects. This patch was about two acres in size. Woah! We were both likes little kids in a candy store. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had found heaven on Earth.

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I spotted an anomaly out of the ten thousand Hyptus plants, a double flowering form that stuck out like a sore thumb, above

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Eupatorium rotundifolium, insect airport

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Here you can barely make out a green mound on which Chris stands. A pimple mound that rose about six feet above the surrounding area, supporting unique vegetation. Dude.

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No need for me to dream tonight! (me and my grin, a selfie, through a fogged-up smart phone lens)

Folks!!!! check out The New York Times article on Iberian Matt Conn. Matt bought seed from us last year for part of his 60 acre wetland restore. A well-done article on a cool young dude with lots of ambition. see the link below. read it and weep.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/us/a-hobbyist-whose-workshop-sits-among-the-cypress-trees.html?_r=0

also check out Matt’s blog   http://turtleboyandthebirds.blogspot.com/

 

The wonders of Lance-leaf Blanket Flower

I walked with a client the other day in a field planted last winter with a Long Leaf pine herbaceous understory wildflower seed mix. It was a great walk and we got to see about a dozen species of high conservatism, juvenile in stature. Some though, had flowers and for me, that is always exciting. Not too shabby for a first year walk. 🙂

One of the plants we happened upon was Gailardia aesivalis, the Lanceleaf Blanketflower, some folks call it Yellow Indian Blanket. This is not to be confused with the more coastal and gaudi-colored Indian Blanket Gailardia pulchella. These are plants worlds apart, in my mind.

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What do you do with the orangey red and bright yellow of Indian Blanket? umm, Not much when you’re a plant snob like me…

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This, my friend, is a classy gal, the most common form of Yellow Indian Blanket or Lanceleaf Blanket Flower, Gailardia aestivalis variety aestivalis. If you’re lucky, you have her growing out in the back forty or right at the front door.

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above: a more rare sub-species for Louisiana (and elsewhere) is Gailardia aestivalis variety flavovirens, the Yellow Indian Blanket with an obvious and pronounced yellow central disc. This is found in Vernon Parish and Allen Parish, also in the Kieffer prairies, and in some Parishes in upper-central Loosianna. Quite a find indeed.

The common Lanceleaf Blanket Flower is a most desirable plant to have in the garden or the natural meadow. It happens to be a very long blooming, one I consider to be the longest blooming of all of our native wildflowers. It also has the characteristic of dropping its petals and holding the rounded, maroon-wine colored central disc, which is very ornamental itself and persists for a long while until seed is fully formed. It is extremely adaptable to a variety of soils. In Louisiana, you’ll find it in the Cajun Prairie, the piney woods, the clay of Kieffer prairies, Copenhagen prairie: an amazingly adaptable thing it is. Just give it a full day of sunlight, step on it every now and then and if you can, burn it. Its a pyrogenic plant. It loves to go up in flames!

It is a significant nectar plant for numerous butterflies, skippers, and other beneficial insects. And because of that, it is popular for predators, who hang out in wait for the nectaring tribes to come moseying along.

This plant maybe wouldn’t make it in the dog eat dog world of horticulture, but for the work of the good folks at the Steven F Austin University Horticulture Department and its associated Piney Woods Native Plant Center. This is due mostly to the keen eyes of the amazing forth-degree master, Dr. David Creech and his black-belt side-kick, Greg Grant.

Dr. Creech and Mr. Grant have been working with a rare species of Blanket flower, Gailardia aesitvalis variety winkleri, a wonderfully clear white variation found only in a few counties along the Texas Coastal prairie. What a fabulous thing it is for them to have found this plant! From their selection work, they have produced a significant horticultural introduction, a cultivar called Grape Sensation.

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the very rare Gailardia aestivalis var winkleri, White Blanketflower

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photos above, of Grape Sensation Blanketflower at the J.C. Rauston Arboretum, Raleigh, North Carolina. (click on the photos to enlarge them)

About fifteen years ago, I introduced one of the first passalong plants of winkleri from Dr. Creech via Peter Loos, into my meadow field in Mississippi. I forget now what color form it actually was that I was given. But today you can walk through the area where that plant was planted and see a whole variety of color forms, plants that seeded since, parented from the original. There’s white, pale lavender, darker lavender, deep redish, and so on, so forth. Its a wonderful experience if I say so myself. Come see them when you can. And get some Lanceleaf Blanket Flower! Find it at the upcoming plant sale at Steven F Austin or at specialty nurseries like Tony Avent’s Plant Delights nursery, through mail order.

Pineywoods plant sale!!!! October 1 2014         http://www.sfasu.edu/5711.asp

Plant Delights offer of Grape Sensation http://www.plantdelights.com/Gaillardia-aestivalis-var-winkleri-Grape-Sensation-for-sale/Buy-Grape-Sensation-Blanket-Flower/

do a search on Gailardia aestivalis winkleri and see a pdf article by Steven F Austin University.   for some reason I couldn’t link it up here.

 

http://www.lsuagcenter.com/news_archive/2014/September/headline_news/Mesa-gaillardia-named-Louisiana-Super-.htm

peace!