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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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

Click to access LNPS%20Summer%202014%20newsletter.pdf

totally artificial, but perfectly natural!

I did a short presentation for Dr. William Platt and his LSU Conservation Biology Lab class yesterday on prairie landscaping. After I was done, we discussed the work I do and how the students could build their experiments around the previous class’ data collecting and research results at Chappapeela Park in Hammond. Dr Platt thinks highly of the vegetation there. He said that my work with prairie is “totally artificial, but perfectly-natural”. I thought that was a awesome. So true, Doc!

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K-9 Conservation Biology Lab Teaching Assistant Kimber makes her rounds while Dr. Platt’s discusses experimental possibilities with his wiz-kid students.

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take me to your leader! cool rendering of the new sculptures going into Lafitte Greenway, NOLA in November

I attended the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Water Challenge function Monday to see if our design would be the chosen one, but we were won-out by the really cool, spinning, night-lighted, sound-generating scuptures concieved by artist Michel Varisco’s “Turning”. We were sad to lose but this was honestly, a good choice. Its beautiful, kenetic modernistic artsy stuff. The sculpture’s going to be the first art installation installed along the Greenway. Maybe more to come from what I hear! Thanks to Jen Blanchard for inviting me be on the team of designers who collaborated to conceive and produce a great finished design proposal. see the winner Ms. Varisco in the articles below. Next competition, Jen!!!

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2015/03/water_challenge_entrepreneur_w.html

http://nolavie.com/variscos-turning-wins-first-living-with-water-arts-pitch-10847/

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above, a borrowed drone photo from Facebook of the play fields/ native grass areas, one of many along the Lafitte Greenway. In all, about ten acres of native grass, prairie, and wetland sedge-meadow gardens will be established. The meadows are the major features besides the trees and turfgrass in the landscape design. Meadows will  help capture stormwater runoff from the Park site. We designers had a timely meeting this week finalizing the details of the Greenway planting plan. We’re now three and a half years of design work with another two and a half or three years of establishment and management left to finish. It will be a unique Park for New Orleans, for sure.

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At North Broad Street and Lafitte Greenway. Doing last minute detail study before the big meeting. Saweet!!!! The wetland-retention ponds are constructed and most of the final grading is done. Ribbon cutting ceremony in June or July, ya’ll.

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above, a photo taken by Dawn Allen McMillian in April last year at the Cajun Prairie Society’s meeting. This year, along with prairie restoration and garden tours, we are presenting the first “native prairie seed auction”, a fund-raiser event planned for the business/ lunch part of the meeting.

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Dr Charles M Allen in 2012, while planting the third “grid garden” at Duralde Restoration site. The second was done just across the road from this one in 1998 or 99 or so. The first, earlier than that. We disked this area for two years before we planted, in November 2012. I collected the seed. Charles and I designed it, and a wonderfully spry group of volunteers planted it.

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Jackie Duncan, Greg Trahan, Sara Simmonds, Margaret Frey, and Linda Chance, laying out the grid

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October 2014 mowed paths, the crop-circle look. The south side of the road has been burned this past winter so it should be glorious wildflower viewing for all who attend.

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Charles’ description of the design.

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Charles’ recently produced prairie map for Louisiana. Cool, huh? It is to be published in the new Handbook for Prairie Restoration in the Southeast, By Jovonn Hill, et al, Mississippi State University, due out this summer.

I got to see the amazing Dr. Sara Mack of Tierra Resources speak at the Water Challenge event. What a treat that was to hear about her work with Wetland and marsh restoration and water-minded collaborations in Louisiana. She is a force. She’s a Louisiana hero.

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Dr. Sara Mack, Entrepreneur Week Water Challenge past-winner and speaker at Water Challenge 2015

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Second meeting in a week with the BREC, the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks folks. They run an amazing model for urban Park management. Everyone should see their management guidelines. They are to reach a goal of reduced mowing over time, going to a more sustainable model. This is the Bluebonnet Swamp meadow area we discussed Tuesday. Last week I was with horticulturist Brett Autenberry at the Baton Rouge Zoo.

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Bluebonnet Swamp is delightfully sublime.

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Cypress knees

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Lizard’s Tail covers the marginal bottom of the swamp preserved by BREC at Bluebonnet.

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I am proud to be working with such a game-changing group of folks such as BREC!!! I’ll be meeting with the new Conservation Specialist on staff at the BREC Conservation Department, Matthew Herron on the idea of doing a meadow planting at Independence Park in Baton Rouge in the next couple of weeks.

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above, “the falls”  at Clark Creek.

If you haven’t ever been to Clark Creek Natural Area in the Woodville, Mississippi area, try to go. There’s a filed trip hosted by some great botanists and naturalists with the Capitol Area Native Plant Society.  they say……..”Also…this area is quite rugged (for our part of the world haha), so if doing some up and down walking is not your thing, this hike isn’t for you. Make sure to bring some water and a little bug spray (for possible ticks and chiggers), and there is a small ($5 or less) fee for vehicle access. If you’d like to meet us there, the address is 366 Fort Adams Pond Rd., Woodville, MS”  fun starts at 8:45 9:00 tomorrow

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adios amigos!

 

 

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!!!!!

 

 

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!

La. Native Plant Society workshop, Native Grass Identification Class, and other upcoming wild-thing events

September and October are shaping up to be two months filled with enticing educational native plant activities for folks in the Pelican State.

Tops on the list for me are the Ouida Home and Garden tour and workshop in St Francisville (September 21), The Allen Acres Butterfly Blast (September 23, 24,and 25), and the Native Grass, Sedges and Rushes Identification class in the Pitkin, Louisiana metropolitan area (October 7, 8 and 9).

The Ouida tour is a joint meeting of the Louisiana Native Plant Society and the Capitol Area Native Plant Society. It will include a behind-the-scenes perspective on native plantings at the wonderful old 1880’s home of Dave and Tracey Banowetz just outside of St. Francisville. If you haven’t been to St, Francisville, you should, at some point, make it there since it is, in my opinion, one of the most picturesque towns in the state. And St. Francisville is only a stone’s throw away from Clark Creek State Park (just north across the Mississippi border), one of the most unique natural areas in the region. Get off that couch and take a kid or two with you when you go.

 

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above: my friend, the late Steven Strong, at the Asteriod meeting, 2011, in front of one of the many unusual natural features at Clark Creek State Park in southwestern Mississippi

On hand will be home-grown native plant experts who will guide the attendees through the wild and a native prairie gardens at Ouida. John Mayronne of Covington, a pioneer of the native plant movement in the southeast and a nationally recognized garden designer/ landscape architect, along with Rick Webb of Amite, cutting-edge native plant nurseryman and rare plant grower, will lead a tour of the gardens that have been established over the last ten years by Dave and Tracey. Dr. Charles Allen of Pitkin, renown author, biologist, and pyrogenic genius, along with little old me (the Prairie Dog), will lead a tour of the Banowetz’s natue-themed prairie gardens. I am sure you’ll enjoy experiencing this Bluestem grass-dominated wildscape. It’s the bomb!

I was able, during my visit to St Francisville last October, to finally get to see these gardens for the first time, through Dave and Tracey’s eyes. They have been purchasing a few pounds of seed every year or two using seed collected from the uber-cool Cajun Prairie Society’s Restoration Project in Eunice,   (….seed provided by yours truly, wuf-wuff!!!). 🙂 Come mingle with experts and novices alike, and take a gander at how these gardens have evolved over the years. It should be a good day, time well-spent.

The Allen Acres Butterfly Blast is a Charles Allen annual event that focuses on plants that attract butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden. Charles has worked for years to establish a wonderful series of plant-driven gardens specifically geared toward butterfly attraction. If you haven’t seen the gardens and heard them interpreted by Charles, make time to attend. You can rent a room from his B and B or camp-out on the Allen property which is quite unique. The property adjoins the Vernon Unit of Kisatchie National Forest. From the gardens, take a five minute hike on foot to the west to see the pristine Ouiska Chitto River. Charles usually leads trips at night to see lightning bugs and puts out an apparatus at night to attract and identify night-flying insects. Kids and adults (older kids) like these natural added attractions.

And last but not least, for those of you interested in the obscure science of grasses and grass-like plants, Dr. Allen will hold an ever-popular Grasses, Rushes and Sedges identification workshop at Allen Acres. I did this several years ago and will be there for it again this year to discover the secrets of gardening with these exceptionally wonderful and useful plants.

For details of these and other cool educational events, check out the Native Plant Society’s calendar at…

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

Louisiana Native Plant Society
and
Capital Area Native Plant Society
September Field Trip
Where:  Ouida Plantation (North of St. Francisville in the Tunica Hills)
When:  Saturday, September 20, 2014
8:30 a.m. until….
Activities:
8:30 a.m. – Wander the gardens and woods at your leisure
10:00 a.m. – “Landscaping With Native Plants”
A garden walk led by John Mayronne and Rick Webb
12:00 – Lunch
 Lunch fixings provided; bring your own beverage of choice.
1:30 p.m. – “Turn Your Pasture Into A Prairie”
Tour a demonstration prairie with Charles Allen and Marc Pastorek

PH awarded Coastal Prairie Wetland banking seed contract!

Pastorek Habitats, LLC has been awarded a contract to collect wetland prairie species seed for two 100+ acre wetland banking properties in Cameron Parish. This is something I have been interested in for many years, working with Coastal Prairie (Cajun Prairie) wetland species. So, lately I have been in my shrimp boots(Hackberry Nikes) sloshing in sweltering ditches and bogs for six or eight hours a day, hand-gathering and then drying and processing the crops that are in season.   …enjoying every minute of it.

The restorations will provide wetland functions and values to the land. These include:

  • Restoring bottomland hardwood and coastal prairie/freshwater marsh wetlands
  • Increasing the quality of habitat for native and Nearctic-Neotropical speices
  • Increasing watershed water quality by retiring existing agricultural land from agronomic and livestock production

The restoration will be accomplished with the following:

  • Long-term protection with a perpetual conservation servitude
  • Establishment of maintenance and protection funds in perpetuity

Pretty cool, huh?!

Most all of my restoration work until this project has been in upland prairie species. This opportunity not only adds an element of new car smell, it also gives me the opportunity to learn a whole list of species that I have for the most part been overlooking all these years simply because the focus was up-out of the bogs and ditches, so to speak: on the higher ground. I couldn’t be doing the work without expert taxonomists who are on board to help identify what it is that I can’t. Plant geeks rock!!!!! What’s particularly exciting for us is that these two projects have lead to another consulting opportunity.

Yipp-ieee!!!

None of this could have been made possible but for the knowledge I have gained hanging out with some of the most interesting and knowledgeable folks in the industry, ecologists across this great nation, but especially my local prairie mentors and fellow Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society members, Dr. Charles M. Allen, Malcom F. Vidrine, Larry Allain, and a bunch of other regionally local folks who have spent many-a-day focused on restoring the prairies of Louisiana and Texas. You know who you are. Also, credit is due to the love of my life and partner-in-(ecological)crime, Candi Pastorek, the brains of the business.

This type of landscape construction and management provides an insurance policy of sorts for wildlife, for the future sustainability of species that are increasingly under pressure due to human activity(humans: we ain’t no good 😦 ). It also provides prototype models, mock-ups, that either prove or disprove different techniques for seed collecting, planting and managing the different variations of prairie and marsh habitat in our coastal environment. We at PH are doing our part to insure that future generations get to enjoy and appreciate the wealth of biodiversity that we have in our lifetime.

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above: last Sunday’s photo of the Marc Pastorek family, with five of the (currently) nine grandkids (if you include Monty the wonder-granddog). My two son’s brides(pictured on the couch), are due with an additional boy each, at the end of the year. Go team Pastorek!

central Gulf South Silphiums

Rosin Weeds are not weeds at all. They are really fine ornamental herbs that provide for substantial wildlife activity and add lots of pizzaz to a garden. Silphiums are some of the more shining, luminous jewels you can incorporated into your prairie-meadow if you’ve got one. Several Silphium species are native to our region and all are easily grown, adaptable, dependable, and extremely persistent garden plants. That is, if you can find them in the nursery trade available for purchase or …if can get some seed. Most all of mine were originally grown from seed.

Silphiums are no minor player when it comes to garden boldness. My friend Gail calls them “tall boys”, and puts them in the same category as Joe Pye Weed, Iron Weed and Big Bluestem. All are adaptable, long to establish but long-lived, and permanent plants that almost never need care.

They’re exquisitely beautiful organisms. Excellent garden plants, no doubt. They have a huge capacity in the landscape for specialized ecological function. They feed good-weird bugs and stuff (they’re highly attractive to butterflies and other very specialized pollinators, y’all).

I’ve heard some of my northern gardener-friends say that they are weedy, but I have not had that kind of luck yet. In the fifteen years or more I’ve grown Silphiums, I have never had enough show up via re-seeding and they have rarely become prolific in a planting, only somewhat, maybe. But they seem to be more than prolific above the Mason-Dixon line. Dumb luck, I guess.

Rosinweeds are for royalty. They are for refined gardens and wildscapes, too! They are horticultural clout. Vertical botanical bling! Some of Europe’s most visited gardens have American Silphiums in them. The Brits Dunnett and Hitchmough use them in their famous wildflower work. And where we live they are tame, yet seductive.

Most Silphiums grow as large-leaved herbaceous plants, big leafy rosettes with tall terminal stalks laden up-top with big butter-yellow ‘ray and disk’ flowers. In the best conditions, during the best year for rain, the tallest ones, the Compass Plant and Prairie Dock, both can grow flower stalks to eight or ten feet tall.

Who wants an eight foot tall herb in their garden? Me, that’s who!!!!

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above: a single flower of Will Fleming’s awesome “curly leafed” Rosin Weed, almost five inches across. not too shabby.

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Actually, Rosinweeds are just foliage clumps in the landscape for months in the spring and early summer until the plant prepares to bloom, sending stalks skyward. The photo above,(click it to enlarge it) taken by Jovonn Hill, of the Pulliam prairie landscape in Chickasaw County, Mississippi, with Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum, just emerging in April, after a controlled burn. Cool thing is you can see right through the stalks of Silphiums when they bloom, like, the stalks almost become invisible.

Here are the Silphiums I have grown for some years now, in my gardens.

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above: Silphium laciniata, the Compass Plant, emerging after burn in spring in the Covington garden. 🙂

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Compass Plant in flower and fruit, Eunice, Louisiana

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Gail and UWA student Colton stand amongst hundreds of ancient Compass Plants at the oh-so-amazing Epes, Alabama chalk glade.

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above: seedling of Compass Plant from hand-harvest seed from Epes, growing at the Black Belt Prairie Garden, University of Western Alabama, Livingston, Alabama, May, 2014.

link to cool photos of Compass plant

http://www.missouriplants.com/Yellowalt/Silphium_laciniatum_page.html

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S. gracile or Slender Rosin Weed’s distribution range, above, a plant found both in Pine forests and Prairies in Louisiana. Lush rosettes, entire leaves, high-oil seed makes for an excellent wildlife plant. Gracile is a real southerner with a red-neck attitude, often kind of slouchy and grinning. No, really, its a very plant with a good attitude. Niche Gardens, a specialty native plant nursery in Chapel Hill, N.C offers this species for sale.

S. simpsonii, Simpson’s or Tall Rosin Weed is a non-Louisiana Native given to me by Texan nurseryman Peter Loos in the mid 1990’s. Good-naturalizing, adaptable, seed excellent for wildlife. Looks very similar to gracile.

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early growth of Silphium simpsoni, above

S. integrifolium, Prairie Rosin Weed, is found associated with inland prairies of Louisiana and the Jackson Belt prairies of Mississippi. Its a Rosin Weed with conspicuous leaf arrangement. A vertically attractive course-textured plant.

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above: the burly-tough rigid stem and leaves of Silphium integrifolium

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above, Silphium integrifolia in full-glory, Harrell Prairie Botanical Area, Bienville National Forest, Scott County, Mississippi

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S. terebinthinaceum, Prairie Rosin Weed (above), is not found naturally occurring in Louisiana and is only found in one county in Mississippi and one in Alabama. Its at the southern end of its range here in the GS. The largest leafed Silphium, by far. Awesome. Tony Avant of Plant Delights nursery in Chapel Hill grows and offers it for sale. Mine hasn’t bloomed yet and it is at least five years old but the leaves are very large and showy without flowers. It may have a lot to do with the seed coming from clay-specific soils to acid soils here in Covington, duh.

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above: S. perfoliatum, The Cup Plant, is an uncommon plant in Louisiana, with records in only one Parish. More commonly found in much of the eastern U.S (minus Texas), this guy has the distinction of forming “cups”, where water collects where the ‘perforated’ leaves join the stem. Bold and strongly structural architecture.

S. asteriscus, Starry Rosin Weed, is one I have only grown for four or five years now. It seems to be very floriferous and a bit shorter than most other species.

Silphium (origin, Will Fleming) is a curly margined form of a yet-unidentified (um, I forget) species with a distinctive leaf form. I’ve grown this plant for five or so years. A worthy ornamental.

Propagation of these species is fairly easy if you have some good, viable seed. Just sow the seed in a good soil mix and barely cover the seed, enough to keep it moist. Germination will come pretty quickly unless its the dead of winter. Field grown Silphium seed is a horse of a different color. Seed I sowed of laciniata, in 1998 and 99 didn’t show up for several years, being out-competed and beat-up by unwanted competition. So eliminate competition in the field before sowing and maybe save yourself some years of waiting and wondering.

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actual flowers of Silphium

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after flowering, seed setting

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The oily seed of Silphium is covered by a wafer-like coating

 

Get down, get tall, get Silphium, and get with it, folks!!!!

 

the link below is the short version of the Flora of Pulliam Prairie paper.

Click to access Campbell___Seymour_2011b.pdf

 

 

after a dozen years, interseeding at the Farm!

The prairie gardens at Meadowmakers’ farm were planted twelve to fourteen years ago: in the early winter of 1999, 2000, and 2001. Very little has been done in these areas except to burn them about every third year since that time.

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above: a general design of the planted areas at Meadomakers’ Farm

When I planted the gardens, I was focused on the attempt to create blocks of individual species and combinations of a few species or more. At the time, the only means to collect seed was by hand-collection, just stripping seed from the plant. I had no interest in including grasses because I didn’t realize at the time how necessary they were to incorporating fire into the management program. What I’ve learned since is that you have to have grasses to get good burns. The controlled burns are the tool that levels the playing field, reducing intense competition and increasing chances that the planting with succeed. Fire brings forth beauty and ecological function.

This idea was proven in the last planting of this three year span of planting. The last one I did was in November 2001. I remember it clearly because it was right after the World Trade Center bombings in New York when I was tilling soil. The seed I was collected with a brand new hand-held motorized seed collector from Prairie Habitats, Manitoba Canada  (eh?). The collection site was Frey Prairie remnant, just south of Eunice. I collected for about three or so hours and got about two or three pounds of seed at most. The seed went out into the newly tilled ground and for many years I thought this spot had failed to produce anything of substance.

Not until five or so years later did I start to see the real result of my work. It became clear over time that this patch of ground turned out to be something particularly significant. Today its pretty obvious when you contrast this planting to any of the other plantings, you’ll see a clear difference in the number of woody plants present. There are very few woody plants here as compared to most of the other non-grass plantings. Grasses, through their connection with fire, obviously weed-out the Chinese Privet, Wax Myrtle and Callery Pear through the benefit of intense heat.

This year is the first year I am working on woody plant control at the farm. And its the first year that I will introduce seed to the original plantings since they were first intalled. I haven’t done anything before this year simply because the rule of law was to keep my paws out of the picture. Charles Allen had told me early on to “do nothing and be patient”, so I did and I was. N

From the beginning, I had decided two things regarding maintenance. 1. that no woody plant eradication would be done and 2. No additional seeding was to be added to the fields until time had passed sufficiently to determine an outcome. Decisions could then be made according to what had occurred. I never determined when I would start with these efforts, but fire would be used as often as possible, once per year was my hope.

So this year has become the year of woody eradication at the Farm (or at least trials of different approaches to woody eradication). And its the year of interseeding: the act of introducing new seed to an already established planting. I have seeded different seed using different seeding approaches as well. This should change the way the fields look in the future and it will change how they respond when it comes to controlled burns.

In November, I started with an acre planting that had been fairly well encroached-upon by privet. Here, I used a chain saw to cut the privet at the soil line and then mowed the entire area thoroughly. No herbicide was applied. I then seeded into it, a diverse mix of grasses and wildflowers. Existing here already is mix of Silphium gracile, Baptisias, Marshallia trinerva, Gailardia aestivalus var Winklerii and dominated mostly by Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindhiemeri, and dominant with large pink drifts of Bee Balm, Monarda.

In early March I was able, with the help of a friend, to do a burn in a patch of about two and a half acres. This one had been planted back in November 2000. The area is one of the most the most garden-like of all the plantings with really robust stands (individual planting blocks) of Eryngium, Penstemon, Baptisia alba, Helianthus mollis, Monarda, Coreopsis pubescens, Sium suave, Pycnanthemum tenuifolia, Marshallia trinerva, Phlox pilosa and the awesome spearmint scented Mountian Mint, Pycnanthemum albescens var. ‘Malcolm Vidrine’. After the fire, I then seeded with a wonderful mix of Little Bluestem and Virginia Bluestem grass.

Tuesday this week we burned another four acre patch of ground that holds 22 experiments. Most of these were single-species plantings but a few were diverse seed mixes and fewer still were two or three-species-plantings. This area was the most daunting of all with lots of Privet and Wax Myrtle. We timed this burn so that the most substantial injury to the woody plants was inflicted. We wanted them to hurt! They’re most vulnerable to fire just after leaf flush and in the case of the Privet, just after flowers are produced. We got a pretty nice fire to go through and much of the woody stuff was obviously effected. I will probably follow-up with a chainsaw and lay down the woody plants that weren’t effected by flame. After the fire, I immediately started seeding with a very diverse mix, dominant in Little Blue and Indian grass. Hopefully this will be beneficial to the cause.

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before fire       click to enlarge photos

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after fire

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Terry “Burn-man” Johnson walks out of the smoke during the fire…

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Silphium, Rosenweed, before the fire…

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and after….

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Rudbeckia grandiflora in the foreground and coreopsis in bloom above…  before…

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…and after the fire.

Yesterday I burned another area (about 1200 square feet) that I had sprayed a few times with herbicide last summer. This patch of ground joins another area (about 1000 square feet) that had become fully engulfed in old Privet. Ten-year-old Privet stacked one on top of the other here, completely covered the area. Last January, my friend Jim McGee and I cut the Privet from the site and burned it. I recently sprayed the area with herbicide. Yesterday was a big day for me because it was seeding day for what I consider to be the most promising blend of grasses designed to be a low-mow lawn for the Central Gulf Coastal states. These two areas were covered in seed and hopefully we’ll see some results soon.

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preparing the Low-Mow lawn seeding area

Along with Farm’s wildflower bling, the management comparisons we’ve executed this year should be beneficial to the group that shows up for our annual Field Day on May 17th. That’s the day! Be there or be square, man.

Botanist Heather Sullivan is expected make the scene and we will all certainly benefit from her unique botanical perspective and her ever-pleasant disposition.

Ya’ll should come! We welcome you!

my way-cool prairie garden as it changes through the year 2013……

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january

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April

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June

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October

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December

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above: A Mississippi Kite, Ictinia mississippiensis, flew right over my head yesterday at the Farm, I caught it on camera as it went past, sweeping the fields for dinner.

good day!!!