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!!!!!

 

 

PH species list for SW Louisiana-Gulf-Coastal-wet-prairie-seed collection, 2014

Special thanks to biologists Dr. Charles M. Allen, Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, Dr. Charles Bryson, Chris Reid, Larry Allain, Dr. Charles Bryson, Gail Barton, and Dr. Billy Delany for their valuable assistance with guiding work to develop this list!

Louisiana Coastal Tall Grass Wet Prairie Species collection-list 2015                              Pastorek Habitats, LLC, Covington, Louisiana

grasses and grass-like species

Andropogon gerardii

Andropogon glommeratus

Andropogon gyrans

Andropogon ternarius

Andropogon scoparium

Andropogon virginicus

Anthaenantia rufa

Aristida purpurascens

Aristida dichotoma

Aristida longespica

Bothriochloa longipaniculata

Carex glaucescens

Carex vulpinoidea

Cladium jamaicense

Coelorachis cylindrica

Coelorachis rugosa

Ctenium aromaticum

Cyperus acuminatus

Cyperus erythrorhizos

Cyperus haspan

Cyperus psuedovegetus

Cyperus oxylepis

Cyperus virens

Dicanthelium aciculare

Dicanthelium commutatum

Dicanthelium dichotomum

Dicanthelium scoparium

Dicanthelium scabrusculum

Dichromena colorata

Digitaria filiformis var. villosa

Eliocharis montevidensis

Eliocharis quadrangularis

Eragrostis elliotii

Eragrostis refracta

Eragrostis spectabilis

Erianthus gigantea

Erianthus strictus

Eriocolon decangulare

Fuirena squarrosa

Juncus dichotomus

Juncus tenuis

Juncus marginatus

Leersia orysoides

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Muhlenbergia capillaris var expansa

Panicum anceps

Panicum dichotomiflorum

Panicum dichotomum

Panicum virgatum

Paspalum floridanum

Paspalum laeve

Paspalum praecox

Paspalum plicatulum

Rhynchospora corniculata

Rhynchospora inexpansa

Rhyncospora glaberata

Rhyncospora globularis

Scirpus cyperinus

Schizachyrium scoparium

Schizachyrium tenerum

Scleria pauciflora

Scleria reticularis

Sorgastrum nutans

Sporobolus junceus

Steinchisma hians

Tridens ambiguus

Tridens flavus

Tridens strictus

Tripsicum dactyloides

forbs and composites

Agalinus fasciculata

agalinus purpurea

Agalinus viridis

Aletris aurea

Amsonia tabernaemontana

Arnoglossum ovata

Asclepias lanceolata

Asclepias obovata

Asclepias viridiflora

Baptisia alba

Baptisia bracteata

Baptisia spherocarpa

Baptisia nuttalliana

Bigelowia nudata

Boltonia difusa

Boltonia asteroides

Biden aristosa

Bidens mitis

Buchnera americana

Cicuta maculata

Chamaecrista fasciculata

Coreopsis tinctoria

Coreopsis lanceolata

Coreopsis linifolia

Coreopsis tripteris

Coreopsis pubescens

Chrysopsis mariana

Croton monanthogynus

Croton capitatus

Dalea candida

Desmodium paniculatum

Echinacea pallida

Erigeron strigusus

Eryngium yuccafolium

Eryngium integrifolium

Erythrina herbacea

Eupatorium album

Eupatorium coelestinum

Eupatorium hyssopifolium

Eupatorium ivifolium

Eupatorium perfoliatum

Eupatorium rotundifolium

Eupatorium xpinnatifidum

Euphorbia corollata

Eurybia hemispherica

Euthamia leptocephala

Euthamia tenuifolia

Gailardia aestivalis

Gailardia aestivalis var flarovirens

Gnaphalium obtusifolium

Guara lindhiemeri

Guara longiflora

Helianthus angustifolius

Helianthus mollis

Heterotheca subaxillaris

Hibiscus mosheutos

Hibiscus grandiflorus

Hypericum nudiflorum

Hydrolea ovata

Hydrolea unifora

Hyptis alata

Kosteletzkya virginica

Lespedeza capitata

Lespedeza virginica

Liatris acidota

Liatris elegans

Liatris spicata

Liatris pycnostachya

Liatris squarrosa

Lobelia appendiculata

Lobelia floridana

Lobelia puberula

Manfreda virginica

Monarda fistulosa

Monarda lindhiemeri

Monarda punctata

Oxypolis filiformis

Passiflora incarnata

Penstemon digitalis

Pluchea comphorata

Pluchea foetida

Polytaenia nuttallii

Pycnanthemum albescens

Pycnanthemum muticum

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium

Rhexia mariana

Rhexia lutea

Rhexia virginica

Ruellia humilis

Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia grandiflora

Rudbeckia texana

Sabatia campestris

Sabatia gentianoides

Sabatia macrophylla

Salvia azurea

Scutellaria integrifolia

Shrankia quadrivalis

Silphium asteriscus

Silphium gracile

Silphium Laciniata

Solidago nitida

Solidago odora

Solidago rugosa

Solidago sempervirens

Strophostyles umbellata

Symphyotrichum dumosum

Symphyotrichum concolor

Symphyotrichum lateriflorus

Symphyotrichum patens

Symphyotrichum praealtus

Tephrosia onobrychoides

Teucrium canadense

Vernonia gigantea

Vernonia missourica

Vernonia texana

West Monroe’s Mayor backs Dr. Joydeep’s scientific wildflower design and controlled burn management for Kiroli park. Go Micro-Prairies!!!

I had a long awaited meeting with West Monroe, Louisiana’s Mayor Dave Norris, Parks Director Doug Seegers, and Dr. Joydeep Bhattacharjee yesterday. It was a year and a half in the works. The question was, will the Mayor sign-off on a scientifically designed wildflower garden devised by Dr. Joydeep, installed and managed by yours truly, for Kiroli Park, the crown jewel of the West Monroe Park system.

The answer from his honor, the Mayor, was a resounding YES!!!!

Whootie-hoot!!

Mayor Dave Norris has been mayor of West Monroe for over thirty five years. He seemed a very personable, kind and wise man.

Dr. Bhattacharjee is a plant and restoration Ecologist at the University of Louisiana, Monroe. He and I have been discussing the design concept for project and finally got the chance to present it to the Mayor. The design is “aimed at evaluating recolonization potential of prairie species in open fields”.  Nice!  🙂

These experiments will be subtly built into a colorful, flowery Bluestem grass garden where he and his students will set up study plots within the planting to collect information on the planting’s establishment and development over time. They’ll do what scientists do, collect and analyze data.

Meanwhile, the estimated 140,000 people who visit the Park each year will be the beneficiaries of a cool rare-plant native wildflower garden.

I consider Joydeep’s garden design to be high art. I wish I could show it here but he wants to hone it more before divulging it to the world. That’ll come later. I’ll let him do the honor when the time comes.

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above: Dr, Joydeep Bhattacharjee, Associate Professor Plant and Restoration Ecology, University of Louisiana, Monroe.

Kiroli Park is sixty acres loaded with wonderfully old second-growth upland Pine and bottomland Cypress-Gum forest habitat remnants that have been sadly separated for many years from their cousins, the native flowering herbs and grasses. This news should put smiles on those old trees’ faces. This thought harkens me back to the old Peaches and Herb singing duo’s song lyrics, “reunited and it feels so good!”

What is particularly special about our meeting yesterday is that we also got permission to manage the flower garden with controlled burns. The fire will encourage natural succession to occur progressively over time, revealing the most delicate and beautiful flowering plants within the seed collection.

Without fire, a prairie is just a faux meadow.

With fire, its a biodiversity garden: a micro-prairie.

Go! Dr. Joydeep!!!

Go! Micro-Prairies!!!!

 

 

 

 

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

Pastorek Habitats’ science mentioned in Landscape Architecture magazine!

I am a big fan of the mowed lawn. No, seriously, I am. I just think we have enough of it, is all. The latest estimate is that there are 50,000 square miles of lawn in America. Thats an area the size of the state of Louisiana. 50,000 square miles of lawn with an estimated additional 600 square miles coming on line annually. Holy cow! Thats a lot of mowing, ya’ll.

The latest issue of Landscape Architecture magazine features an article written by Thomas Christopher titled Turf Trails: Grass that needs less mowing and water is a project for scientists across the country. In it, Tom discusses new up-and-coming ecologically logical options to the American obsession with the clipped lawn. Tom is a horticulturist who lives in Middletown, Connecticut and runs a business called Smart Lawn. He specializes in sustainable lawn design. Go figure.

When I spoke at the NDAL in New London in January, Tom came up to me after to pick my brain about lawn alternatives for the southern U.S. He and I had a few more conversations during the course of the conference and that lead to him mentioning our uber-cool work with a Gulf Coastal version of the low-mow lawn, in the article.

This is a big deal for a little business like ours, getting mentioned in such a prestigious design mag. Aren’t we something! Ha, I will try not to let it go to my head.

Main thing is, there’s a revolution of sorts occurring in the US of A. It gives me comfort when I see the young folks involved in horticulture and conservation doing work to change our ‘industrial complex’ complex. There will always be, I suppose, those who have a need to mow every inch of their property. But I feel sure that time will heal this affliction so prevalent among us. There’s hope for the future, folks!

Wish I could post the article Tom wrote here but there’s that there copy right thing…..

Anyway, to change the subject, I saw some cool wildlife stuff last week. really cool.

So I am photographing Silphium perfoliatum in the yard the other day just after a good rain and I could hear the frogs in the background making their noises. One group would announce, “shallow, shallow!” and the the other group would respond by saying “deep, deep!”. That idea struck me just about the time I heard a confusing noise behind me. I turned around in time to see what was clearly the back end of a hawk flying away from me, just twenty feet away. When I saw it, it was just taking flight, a few feet off of the ground. I couldn’t see if he or she had caught anything or not but I haven’t see that cute little bunny rabbit that’s been my garden buddy every day for the last few weeks since the hawk fluttered away into the sky. hmmm. awesome.

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Silphium perfoliatum is a robust, large leafed thing

 

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gets its name from the perforated leaf joint. My friend Gail Barton says birds will drink water collected in the perferated “cup”

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If you don’t know of Silpiums, take a gander, since they are excellent ornamental herbs and fantastic wildlife plants. There are many native species in this region. I have a collection of the regional species in my home meadow. The seed of Rosinweeds are high in oil content, which is like caviar to birds.

Was at City Park in New Orleans Tuesday mowing the meadow there so we can over-seed it next week. While I was mowing, I noticed a hawk fly down, and obviously got a bite to eat. Up into a big oak it flew. Lunch of a field mouse or something very small. This continued for a couple of hours. That bird ate up some vittles, ya’ll! At one point, he or she was lighted on a branch of a Hackberry tree about ten feet off the ground. I decided I would ease over to get as close as I could so I could get a pic. So I did. I would make long turn-arounds and swing by closer each time. The hawk just sat there watching me each time. I made my final pass within 15 feet of this incredibly wild bird and it didn’t flinch. Just kind of gave me a “thanks for dinner” nod and when I swung back for an even closer attempt, it flew off and went back up to the safety of the big oak. Being anything but a birder, I was able because of my repetitive passes to visually lock-in its color characteristics and when I got home and did some research, I, by process of elimination(and guesswork) determined that it probably was a Red Shouldered Hawk. What a beauty it was.

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ole’ fat and sassy Red Shoulder showing off fine plumage and upstanding character (click on the photos to enlarge them)

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swooping away, it went back up to the open space in the big oak

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the meadow, ready for seed

Get out and enjoy this last cool snap because, like, next week it’ll be hot as Hades and it’ll probably stay that way for a long while.

Hope to see you all (all three of you) at the field day at the seed farm this Saturday. Be there or be square!   http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/pages/calmay.php