with turfgrass, less is much more

“Our remaining prairies throughout the grassland region are vestiges of one of the mightiest ecosystems ever to grace the earth. Our prairie soils and grazing lands made North America into an agricultural powerhouse like nowhere else in the world. And what remain may be called remnants, but they are not artifacts, they are teeming with life—living laboratories of genetic resources that we cannot afford to lose. They are perhaps all the more precious because they are so scarce and so vulnerable”     Carol Davit, the Executive Director of Missouri Prairie Foundation in her opening keynote address at the Americas Grassland Conference

http://www.nwf.org/~/media/PDFs/Misc/2015-Americas-Grasslands-Conference_Proceedings-FINAL-070816.ashx

 

—————————————————————————————-

Delighting in the Yellow Rain Lily fields at New Orleans City Park, NOLA

There are two really good models of naturalized, largely sustainable (perennial) meadows in New Orleans City Park, New Orleans, La. One model is the lush natural dark green stands of grass-like sedge meadows that exist on the south end of Scout Island – under the old Live Oaks there, just across from Goat Island (it is Leavenworth’s sedge mostly), and the other model is the Yellow Rain Lily fields that exist in the lawn areas surrounding Tad Gormley Stadium, just north of the Botanical Gardens. I have covered the sedge meadows previously in posts – here’s one post from a couple of years ago.

(https://marcpastorek.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/leavenworths-sedge-has-mind-of-its-own-makes-awesome-shade-meadow-in-city-park-new-orleans/)

IMG_2050

Its the Rain Lily meadows I wanted to share with you. They were all colored-up, really beautifully, when I was there recently (click to enlarge the pic). This lily field area (above) is located to the north and east of the corner of Marconi Avenue and Roosevelt Mall, which leads into the western entrance of the Park from Marconi Ave., just south of the Interstate 610.

IMG_2057

The tiny flowers of Zepharanthes citrina (identification via Scott Ogden’s Garden Bulbs for the South), above. Its a non-native naturalized plant I have found in several regularly mowed properties in different parts of Louisiana; in City Park New Orleans, and at the Chalmette National Battlefield and in many old home sites, some I recollect, in St. Francisville. This very tough, resilient plant takes sun or shade, wet or dry, but does particularly well being in the infrequently mowed understory of a Live Oak tree. This photo, shot when the Lilies were in peak bloom, two weeks ago, and should be in full seed about right about now if it hasn’t been mowed down. Tiny bright yellow Lily goblets scatter the ground over dark green threadlike tufts of Lily leaves.

IMG_2081

seeds of Z. citrina are ready when the seed capsule splits open

IMG_2082

little black wedges of Yellow Rain Lily seed are light as dust

The Park’s Cosmos color crops next door, are just coming into flower now. These provide brief displays of luxuriant color and double as pollinator-friendly nectaring-weigh stations for bee s and butterflies. The Rain Lily and sedge gardens are perennial, permanent and relatively carefree, while the Cosmos gardens need reseeding, replanting every few months. Color cropping is relatively easy to do and so fun to experience when in flower. There are so many more annuals to try though. The list is long for annual species to dabble with, both native and non-native species.

IMG_2069

the gardens are surrounded by wide mowed paths of lawn for access to the edge and some leading through the interior of the plantings.

IMG_2064

above, planting color crop meadows using annuals is a fun and really rewarding alternative to mowing turf grass for those who are adventurous and inspired to create big splashes in life.

IMG_3697

above, the general feel for what peak flower looks like. This type of garden can be a useful alternative in the design toolbox for developing strategies for fossil fuel reduction and for encouraging land managers to have a more delicate touch in managing large acreage land.




turfgrass transition!

Speaking of gardens that inspire, check out this photo of what used to be a severely boring lawn and is now a really significant prairie habitat garden and gene-bank preserve, containing numerous species and hundreds of thousands of flowers on a monthly basis on about two acres. The insect activity here is amazing, and species diversity and species richness in the vegetation is as remarkable. Superlative vegetation, produced from planting wild-collected high-quality prairie seed. Go figure.

IMG_1308

click on the photo to enlarge it.

This is what not quite three years of time after planting does to soil, with high quality prairie seed. A developing prairie garden blankets the earth in broad stroked patterns. Remember, 70% or so of the biomass of a prairie is underground so you can imagine 2 times as much rootmass underground, in biomass – roots going down maybe eight or more feet. That is prairie, mostly roots – deep, dense root highway systems that channel stormwater and harbor an array of undrground micro-fauna. Narrow Leafed Mountain Mint plants, Button Snakeroot, Black Eyed Susies, Bee Balm and an 100 other odds-and-ends prairie species grow with abandon in this natural meadow, demonstrating the character lost landscapes.

IMG_1313

A series of mowed lawn trails weave through this two-acre garden and serve a dual roll as fire lines for semi-annual prescribed fires.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Hamilton Hall prairie habitat garden rocks campus

The Hamilton Hall prairie garden was planted about three years ago as a volunteer project, from seed gathered and nursery grown plants grown, using Cajun Prairie genetics, many provided by Pastorek Habitats.

* all photos courtesy of University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Facebook page ha

13510880_1219951628017942_5871706554084682543_n

Prof. Jim Foret, Jacob Delahoussaye, and Steve Nevitt and volunteers from the UL Horticulture Club got together and built the prairie garden at ULL, Hamilton Hall, on the northeast corner of the building. Its really taken off now, developing into a full fledged prairie sod, via prescribed fire management.

13516411_1219951391351299_6010103859567141600_n

above, architectural structure can be helpful when blending a wild garden design into the refined urban condition.

13438808_1219950364684735_3299924245358039096_n

fat and sassy Anole lounges on a prairie perch

13438874_1219950531351385_8830475173284849865_n

Coastal Prairie Coneflower (R. nidita)

13438998_1219951468017958_1177396894415183315_n

above, a Purple Coneflower flower is a happy place for a Skipper butterfly

13439094_1219950361351402_7551658262020932525_n

the delicate flower cluster Coastal Hibiscus, a native marsh edge plant

13495254_1219950544684717_4709781151513857624_n

the flower buds of Helianthus mollis, above

13495258_1219951298017975_3049386798025615276_n

13501639_1219950408018064_7382740147620188519_n 13502074_1219950391351399_3839144381441475541_n

Hibiscus mosheutos and a worker bee

13507238_1219950634684708_7290068482519179004_n

anthers and filaments of the Eastern Gamma grass flower

 

13508879_1219950401351398_849118735902503408_n

a spent calyx from a Hibiscus flower

 

13509074_1219950658018039_3967375776913782723_n

Foxtail grass

 

13510887_1219951601351278_4689192921156241572_n

13516398_1219951598017945_8446213731646337901_n

13521840_1219950701351368_5616804246619895043_n

Button Snake Root

13528711_1219950474684724_4559086895235995577_n

13529170_1219951374684634_3309982710254957546_n

Cassia fasciculata

 

13532989_1219951574684614_6651959086586461281_n

13537626_1219950788018026_8142961486450934735_n

Coastal Hibiscus bud

 

13557802_1219950481351390_972772508309939790_n

Rudbeckia nidita and passenger

 

13567102_1219950371351401_3906963695424245332_n

postage stamp prairies are doable! Three cheers for the ULL Horticulture Club!


—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Fire, not for amateurs —

One of the most controversial – yet possibly the most important aspect of gardening for ecological recovery of fine-fuel prairie vegetation is fire, the prescribed fire. Fire is a natural condition that transforms landscapes through natural succession, an orderly natural process. Using prescribed fires is a science and a necessary tool. Considering humidity, wind speed and direction, fuel load, etc., you can develop a plan for successful execution of the burn and do it safely. Training and certification is a good thing or just find a forester who can do it for you. That’s my advice.

You can prairie garden without fire, too. Just prepare for the management you choose before planting is done.

Burn+2-13-16+%28b%29

This borrowed photo captures a moment in time, a frame of a flame – at a prairie restoration about three or so years old – produced from Pastorek Habitat’s high quality prairie seed.    photo by Biologist/ Ecologist Matt Conn

Take a look at Matt’s blogpost on large-scale Chinese Tallow removal via helicopter. Matt’s experimenting and learning hands-on, via natural plant communities. Matt partnered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working directly with biologist Andrew Dolan, who is the Service’s private lands consultant, to prepare for and establish this small-acreage (I think a few acres) prairie garden. Andrew’s job focus includes guiding people interested in turning part of their property into wildlife habitat. There is someone in Andrew’s position in every state in the union so there’s a private lands coordinator somewhere near you. Get grass, people!

link to Mr. Conn’s Chinese Tallow article below

http://turtleboyandthebirds.blogspot.com/2016/04/invasive-tallow-udate.html

link to New York Times article on Matt…

 




 

Marc to speak at CPEX Smart Growth Planning Summit in November

Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX) will host the 11th Annual Louisiana Smart Growth Summit November 1 & 2, 2016 in downtown Baton Rouge. The Summit has become the Southeast’s premier event promoting dialogue on innovative planning and exploring models for creating healthier and more resilient communities, making our streets safer while expanding transportation options, as well as examining the real estate market and development trends, and the important role of policymaking and leadership. Major sessions will hit on the big ideas that we hope will inspire our communities to move forward, as well as best practices and how-to follow-up sessions for our practitioner

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Lafitte Greenway 9-acre native meadow magic set to begin

The City of New Orleans’ newest City park, the Lafitte Greenway, a sixty-four acre public space designed by the Landscape Architecture firm The Design Workshop, of Aspen, Co.,  -built for biking, team sports, community gardens, and other forms of recreation – will soon see progress begin for the process of establishing authentic Louisiana prairie habitat gardens and Sedge-dominant wetland gardens, just under 9 acres in all, using our amazingly-viable local-genetic seed and awesome restoration technology.

We were so fortunate to have been chosen as The Design Workshop’s lead horticultural consultant during the time the park design was being developed and perfected, starting back in November 2011. We’ve since been actively working with the Landscape Architectural staff at the City of New Orleans, the Landscape Architecture firm Dana Brown and Assoc., and a slew of other specialists, to help hammer out the details of what will soon become the crown jewels of the Park.

Nose to the grindstone for three years, ya’ll!

link to the American Society of Landscape Architects Award for Analysis and Planning – 2013,  below

https://www.asla.org/2013awards/328.html

 

lafitte

The Greenway is a linear Park (the greenspace on a diagonal from top left to bottom right) inspired by a group of visionary citizens who saw an opportunity to develop what was once an old derelict rail road line (and before that, a navigation canal), into an viable and invaluable public space for the City. The Park serves as a green transportation connection between the French Quarter and the City Park area. All of the trees and garden areas in Lafitte are designed 100 per cent with native plants. All construction is mostly finished at this point but for the prairie gardens.

11209694_10152708234296277_4336944522266446718_n

at Galvez Street looking to the southwest – Lafitte Greenway at Claiborne Avenue/ I-10

11188245_10152708234176277_4704683962638940335_n

looking north to Lake Ponchartrain @ Lafitte Greenway at Bayou St. John/ Jeff Davis Parkway

12239691_10153074434971277_6097396378067862244_n

above, Volunteer-painted fence in background with one of our several storm water-bioretention gardens (foreground)

IMG_2367

Marc and Blue Hawaii Elvis hangin’ out at the Greenway!

Thank ya ver’ much!


Grow Cleome hassleriana from seed. Play around with this plant and you may get lucky and get a good crop of flowers. Cleome’s an annual plant, very short lived. Very easy. Blooms only for a month or so and then it makes lots of round, linear seed pods – that you can easily gather and grow!

I recently saw Cleome growing in sugar sandy beaches that are formed in the bends of the Okatoma Creek, in south Mississippi. But you can see below, its pretty common in Loosiana, yall (Allen and Thomas’ Vascular Flora of Louisiana).

IMG_2440

Cleome gets around via seed. Its a prolific seed maker.

IMG_2447

IMG_2139

th

the leaf of Cleome resembles the leaf of Cannabis, which happens to be just next to Cleome in the book – same family –

IMG_2014

IMG_2445

This little crop was a-buzz last week when I took an early morning walk about.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————


Basils, easy to grow pollinators

Basil plants come in many shapes and forms. The typical culinary Basil, easily grown from seed is not only great to eat, it is a highly sought after plant by bees and other pollinators.There are many types, cultivars, of Basil in the horticulture trade. I’ve grown Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Opal Basil, Holy Basil, Purple Basil, and, this year I’ve tried for the first time, African Basil – and have enjoyed having it in the garden. Three words for Basil growers; simple, simple, simple. I plan to make some pesto soon with the African variety to try it out. I was excited to see a Hummingbird Moth on the African Basil patch in the middle of the day the other day. Odd since the moths, I think, are nocturnal. First time for everything, I guess 🙂   cool hummingbird moth on basil video, below

 

 


Natural Beauty in the State of Mississippi

Okatoma Creek near Seminary, Mississippi – one of my grandkids, little Asher Pastorek, jumps from a clay bar – canoeing in the red clay state w the young’ns. nice…

 

 


Save the Date! Competing meetings!

September 24th, 2016   Pollination Celebration – Hammond, La

a day long educational forum on pollinating insects and plants they utilize

b-zzzzzzzzzzzzz

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

 

September 24th and 25  Texas and Cajun Prairie Conference – Lafayette, La

Details are still in the making, but basically this will be a two day event with a night Social between (they are considering having a Zydeco Band for music so bring your dancing shoes). There will be an educational forum on Saturday and a field tripping caravan on Sunday.

keep a look-out for this event at cajunprairie.org and prairiepartner.org/

 

 

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!

IMG_1429

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

turning3-526x349

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/

10410870_10152414394056277_5653583519095594747_n-2

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.

IMG_1341

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.

68999_644223378926593_2067703538_n-1

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.

579022_541422079219057_1679481638_n

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.

311291_541422022552396_336352008_n

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

IMG_8789

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.

602421_541424505885481_1593583651_n

Charles’ description of the design.

IMG_1416

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.

3-26-13-water-challenge-winners

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

IMG_1406

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.

IMG_1211

Bluebonnet Swamp is delightfully sublime.

IMG_1410

Cypress knees

IMG_1409

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

IMG_1411

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.

unnamed

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

IMG_1431

adios amigos!

 

 

Eunice prairie demonstration gardens tour, April 4

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

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

IMG_7463

IMG_4359sensbriar_mat

sensitive briar, Mimosa quadravalvis

IMG_0036

Phlox pilosa color variations

20991_644223568926574_1322851306_n 155606_644223535593244_878930041_n 12394_644223748926556_1814124871_n

awesome rare wild onion, Allium mobilense

533790_644223322259932_194926813_n

blue eyed grass

537957_644223405593257_1867228725_n 68999_644223378926593_2067703538_n

Cardinal on a burnt twig

526457_644223208926610_1985655328_n

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

551334_644223485593249_143560235_n 524420_515004785181787_379352828_n

Praying Mantis

533600_644223758926555_145180081_n

white false indigo, Baptisia alba

625574_644223455593252_1986325550_n

Baptisia bracteata

283916_515004598515139_1111245463_n

Gulf Fritillaries on passiflora vine

304639_515004475181818_632284908_n 311504_515004678515131_987149148_n 532352_644223402259924_276255346_n IMG_0033

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

IMG_8789

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

602421_541424505885481_1593583651_n

1175741_10200482792807491_1996903004_n

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

IMG_4097

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

Program for Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society

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

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

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

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

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

Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society meeting.

And the presentation

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

P1210243

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.

PCD0001_IMG0008 p1020337_2

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).

pdmagyrans2photo8

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.

Schizachyrium tenerum

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!!!!!

 

 

planting milkweed seed for Monarch butterflies, now’s the time :)

Somebody asked me once why I don’t use milkweeds in my projects. The answer is, I do. But they need special attention. They have special requirements. At least in my experience, Milkweed plants aren’t easy to produce and can be hard to keep, in the landscape.

First you have to get the seed. That’s tough enough. Many species of Milkweed show up in the landscape without any rhyme or reason. They are the rebels of the grassland. Doing cuttings is an option in the spring, before bloom, but you have to have a mister system or at least time on your hands to do that. Finding seed takes a little experience and a lot of luck. You have to know where plants are, and you have to arrive just in time to harvest the seed or it will float away with the wind. I recently saw a method of wrapping a bag around the pod to capture all parts when pod ripening and opening occurred. That’s a pretty smart idea. Duh, why didn’t I think of that.

asclepias_obovata

Pineland Milkweed, Asclepias obovata

IMG_5880

a pod of Green Milkweed, Asclepias viridis, with a single seed and silk (at left). The traveling mechanism of the seed is very much like a Badminton birdie. This is a pod that I picked from a cattle field in the Black Belt prairie area of Alabama. Cows can’t eat the Milkweeds so they are occasionally abundant under hoof. A cow field I go to near Livingston, Alabama has hundreds and hundreds of plants each year.

IMG_0328

Once you get the seed, in order to plant it, you gotta clean the silk fluff from the seed. Malcolm Vidrine showed me a way thats pretty easy if you have the pod in tact and seed not fully open. Remove silk and seed arrangement. Grip silk tightly and rake the seed from it. Gail Barton told me about using fire, which is much more fun than just stripping the seed with your hand. this youtube video, below, is last week’s frying pan fire, when I was planting my milk weed.

After cleaning them, put them in cold for stratification. Its time to do that right now, mid-February. Look at Dr. Charles “Paw Paw” Allen and Mac “Milkweed-Man” Vidrine do their thing in this past-issue of The Cajun Prairie Habitat newsletter. Its a couple of great articles written the masters themselves, last year.

http://www.cajunprairie.org/newsletters/201403.pdf

IMG_0334

seed can be stratified in paper towel or damp sand. I played out paper towel, put seed on it and wet it. Then folded it into a square and drip-dried in the sink.

IMG_0338

wetness….

IMG_0339

drippin’ and dryin’, into a plastic bad it went on February 8, to the fridge, till March 20th or so, when I’ll sow them in tiny pots. Into the garden they’ll go after that. 🙂

please read the following article (below) on Monarchs just produced by Dr Allen.   Hasta luego, suckers!

Monarchs, Milkweeds, Migrations, Mexico, Midwest, Malcolm’s Method, and Misconceptions

By Dr. Charles Allen with lots of info stolen from Dr. Malcolm Vidrine

 

The monarch butterfly is one of the most, if not the most, intriguing animal with its migration pattern and host plant requirements.  Many Monarchs migrate annually from the United State to Mexico and back but unlike birds and other migratory animals, the migrating butterfly is not the original butterfly but the offspring.  The monarchs overwinter in the mountains of central Mexico and when the weather warms in the spring, the monarchs begin to fly northward toward Louisiana and other southern states.  Upon arriving in south Louisiana, the female monarchs seek out milkweeds on which to lay her eggs.  The eggs hatch into caterpillars and the caterpillars eat milkweed leaves and turn into a chrysalis and then an adult monarch emerges from the chrysalis.  These adult monarchs then migrate farther northward and spend the summer in the central or northern US or southern Canada.  Several broods (3 or 4, depending on the weather) of monarchs are usually produced during the summer and these monarch live 3 to 5 weeks.  But the offspring from the last brood begins to migrate southward and should end up in central Mexico.  The last brood is different in that it lives much longer than the summer broods, up to nine months.  These will overwinter in central Mexico and then migrate northward in the spring.    And, there are groups of monarchs that do not migrate but overwinter in the south (Florida west to Louisiana and Texas).  There is also a group of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains that overwinter in southern California and northern Mexico and migrate northward to southern Canada and back to southern California.

Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweeds or closely related species in the milkweed family and the caterpillars only eat leaves of these plants. For a listing, description, and pictures of Louisiana milkweeds, goto http://www.cajunprairie.org/newsletters/201403.pdf.   Monarch caterpillars are very host specific that is they have to have milkweeds or the close relatives to eat.  Note that adult monarch butterflies can drink nectar from a wide variety of flowers and are not host specific like the caterpillars.

There are two distinct areas for monarchs in Louisiana, the coastal area from about Interstate 10 or US 190 southward to the coast and the inland area that part of Louisiana north of Interstate 10 or US 190 (see map). The blue area on the map is the coastal and the white (non-colored) area of Louisiana is the inland area.  For the inland area, the monarchs are typically present during two time periods, spring-March to April and fall-September and October, both during migration periods.

The map shows that the coastal portion of Louisiana is an area where monarchs practice winter breeding but in talking to people who live in the coastal monarch area, the monarch reproduce year round there.  In other words, the coastal area is an area of summer breeding for monarchs as well as winter breeding. Note that the map does not indicate summer breeding in the coastal areas.  I think that the coastal area of Louisiana is a milder area in the summer than the inland areas thus it is feasible for monarch to reproduce there during the summer.  The milder climate makes the area more similar to the northern US and Canada, and especially the Midwest US and thus monarchs can and do reproduce.  I remember visiting Grand Isle in the coastal monarch area one June and was surprised to see white sweet clover (Melilotus alba) to be very common.  This same plant can be seen in the inland area in February to late April but has succumbed to the heat by June.  I remember seeing this same plant very commonly in Iowa and Wisconsin prairies in July.  And, I have seen lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album) on Grand Isle fairly common in April to June but have not seen it or see it very rarely in the inland area.  Lamb’s quarters is another plant that is more common in the central and northern United States.  These two observations on plants on Grand Isle makes me think that there is a milder climate on Grand Isle during the summer and allows monarch to reproduce there.

Map taken from Article on tropical milkweed showing migration and reproduction.

 

 

Wrapup Points:

  1. We need to make the researchers aware of the fact that the monarchs in the Louisiana coastal area reproduce year round (summer and winter) and not just winter as their map and text indicate.
  2. With the study of monarch DNA and tagging, it would be interesting to see if the monarchs in the coastal area are (1) the offspring from same ones from year to year or (2) composed of two groups (new migrating monarchs that stop migrating plus the overwintering populations that have survived) or in fact, (3) is there a new population of monarchs there each year from migrating monarchs?.
  3. We (coastal and inland Louisiana people) need to be sure to have plenty of succulent milkweeds ready in March and April when the migrating monarchs return from Mexico.  I say use tropical milkweed mixed with native milkweeds this year (2015).  And let us see if we can get enough native milkweed ready at that time.  It seems to be a tough job to get the native milkweeds growing and with large enough leaves by March every year.  The only one that I have been able to do is the swamp or aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis).  Perhaps the green milkweed may also be ready at that time.  I don’t see it much in my area but remember it being a common milkweed in the Cajun Prairie region of Louisiana but can’t remember what it looked like in March.  Most of the other native milkweeds are just thinking about growing in March and would not provide much food to migrating monarchs. Within walking distance of my house, I have three native milkweeds: (1). clasping milkweed (Asclepias amplexicalis) in the very sandy areas; (2) white milkweed (Asclepias variegata) in the shade of hardwood forests; and (3) swamp or aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) growing in wet areas along the Ouiska Chitto Creek.  The only one that seems to be in good shape in the spring is perennis but it was in an open area where I had moved it from the shade of the Ouiska Chitto.  Perhaps, other people may have additional native milkweeds to suggest for the spring migrating northward monarchs.  Then, if we can get enough native milkweeds ready for March, we can phase out the tropical milkweeds for the spring.  I would hate to get rid of all tropical milkweeds this spring and the monarchs arrive to no milkweeds what so ever.  Talked to Malcolm Vidrine (see below) and he says he has monarchs laying eggs on the very small emerging milkweeds in the spring and they prefer natives over the tropical and their favorite native is the tuberosa

I am still leery of Asclepias incarnata and Asclepias syriaca; these may be northern US species that are cultivated in Louisiana.  If tropical milkweed stops south migration and these two are northern species, perhaps those milkweeds would stop northern migration of monarchs??

  1. For the fall migration, the monarchs are supposed to migrate without reproducing but I see them every fall reproducing and have seen them reproducing on native milkweeds.  In fact, fall is when I see, by far, the most monarchs.  The spring migration often passes with me only seeing one or two monarchs but I typically see 20-30 or more in the fall.  The native milkweeds are past their prime at that time with older leaves that are not very conducive to monarch egg laying.  I plan to try to prune my native milkweeds back in August with the hope that the plants will regrow and have young succulent leaves for the fall monarchs.

 

MALCOM’S METHOD

For Malcolm’s complete article with pictures, goto http://www.cajunprairie.org/newsletters/201403.pdf.

Dr. Malcolm Vidrine of Eunice has been working with native milkweeds for several years now and has this to report:

  1. Collect seeds from locations near the final growing site. For years I collected and/or bought seeds of a variety of milkweeds, especially Butterflyweed, from numerous places in Louisiana and other states—these grew and bloomed (or not) as annuals only to die in the moist winter soils of the Cajun Prairie.

The Cajun Prairie Butterflyweed that I grow was found just south of Eunice in a woodland meadow along a railroad right-of-way—they and their offspring have grown in my gardens for up to 17 years.

  1. Remove the seeds from the follicles when the follicles split with a little pressure from your fingers.  Grasp the silk and pull the seed from their silks. Seeds should have a viable embryo—a nut-like palpable swelling.  Note from Charles Allen here: Gail Barton last week at the LNPS meeting suggested using fire to get rid of the silk on the seeds.  I have used that method and it works by simply placing a lit match near the silk and it poofs up in flame as Gail suggested and the silk is gone.
  2. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place until February.
  3. In February, place the seeds into CMS (cold moist storage). This simply requires placing the seeds in

a Ziploc-like bag with a small amount of damp sand for 6 weeks in the refrigerator. Do not do this to the nonnative Mexican milkweed (A. curassavica)—the CMS is lethal in my experience—plant these seeds directly.

  1. In March-April, add water to Ziploc-like bag, and the viable seed should float to the surface. Remove the seeds into a growing chamber—I use plastic containers that come with a lid. The seeds are spread out on the surface of potting soil—almost any kind works—and a light covering of soil is used to simply hide the seed. Keep the chamber closed and moist. I place the chamber in a south-facing window.
  2. Seeds germinate in a week—really germinate—hundreds of them. Allow them to grow out a second pair of leaves—usually 2 weeks.
  3. Move the seedlings outside and transplant them into large containers—5 gallon containers for 1-2 years. I prefer 2 years in order to allow the roots to grow really large (several inches long) and easy to handle.
  4. In winter or early spring, either transplant the entire container into the ground or remove the roots and transplant them separately into the final growing site. The roots can be divided in the spring into 2 inch segments, and placed in individual containers providing even more plants. These cuttings can

also be planted into the final growing site with approximately 50% success. As a final propagation note, all species can be grown from stem cuttings (taken after Monarchs are done eating), but the success rate is highly variable, and the process requires more intensive work.

 

General notes:

 Butterflyweed (tubberosa)—it is essential to grow plants from near your location, and it takes years to get a specimen plant; thus plant 3 in a triangle about a foot apart. The plants reach 3 feet in height and have red to orange flowers.  Red milkweed or Few-flowered milkweed—while this plant likes damp soils, it readily conforms to good soil, but it cannot tolerate drought. I have lost hundreds of these from planting them in poor, dry sites or to severe droughts. The plants grow 4-5 feet in height and have yellow to red flowers.

Green antelopehorn (viridis) —this plant can be grown in your lawn as it actually appears to appreciate being mowed by machines and/or Monarchs. It is very easy to grow compared to the previous 2 species. The plants grow to 2 feet high and have green flowers.

 Shore milkweed or Swamp milkweed (perennis)—this plant can tolerate container growth for years, unlike the 3 previous species. It prefers damp soils and cannot tolerate drought. It stays green almost all winter, and it is a superb host for Monarchs as it is green both in early spring and in late autumn. It is the easiest to grow, and the most prolific bloomer. Seeds lack silk. The plants grow to 2 feet high and have pink or white flowers.

 Whorled milkweed (verticillata)—this plant is easy to grow and transplant. It prefers damp soils and can tolerate drought better than the red milkweed. The plants grow to 3-5 feet and have green to white flowers.

 

All of these are used by our migratory Monarchs. Each has different growth habits and requirements for good flowering. Butterflyweed and Whorled milkweeds appear to be long-lived (more than 10 years),

while the other 3 species appear shorterlived (usually more than 5 but less than 10 years).

 

 

You should have my email native@camtel.net and Dr. Malcolm Vidrine’s is malcolmvidrine@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

But that didn’t stop me.

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

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

IMG_9130

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

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

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

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

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

img_4747

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_9096IMG_9098

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

IMG_9102

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

IMG_9110

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

IMG_9112

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

…and enjoy!

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

 

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

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

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

IMG_7451

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

IMG_7463

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.

IMG_7522 IMG_7493

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)

IMG_7492 IMG_7499

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?

IMG_7504 IMG_7569

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

IMG_7506 IMG_7512

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

IMG_7516

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

IMG_7532

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

IMG_7536

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.

IMG_7538

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

IMG_7554

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.

IMG_7549

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

IMG_7552

Eupatorium rotundifolium, insect airport

IMG_7562

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.

IMG_7574

IMG_7578

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.

gaillardia_pulchella_020207_1

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…

Gaillardia_aestivalis_7659_800

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.

2122069

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.

CARR_0034

the very rare Gailardia aestivalis var winkleri, White Blanketflower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

L-DOT decides that Big Al needs a prairie pal

Thanks to the brilliance and foresight of ULL Professor Jim Foret and his former student, La state Transportation Department supervisor Ryan Dugas, the New Iberia-Lafayette area will be the recipients of a cool 1.3 acre Coastal Tall grass Prairie planting just next to Big Al, the massive Live Oak that was relocated a couple of years ago during construction along highway 190.

Ryan, Jim, and I met in the spring to discuss a plan of action to join these two in the holy bond of marriage and since then Ryan has taken steps that will prepare the way for planting this winter. Big Al the Live Oak was moved only because folks came out of the woodwork to fight to save him and as a result, two years later, we have a well-settled-in friend who seemed a bit lonesome up on his knoll. Jim and Ryan took it upon themselves to remedy that lonesomeness. In the spring and summer next year a prairie will begin to emerge as a life companion for Mr. Al. I couldn’t think of a more compatible couple, …those two lovebirds! 🙂

IMG_4028

above: Prof. Jim Foret, left, walks up to a very Big Al, with Dr Charles Allen, to check Al’s pulse, a year or so after the move, in spring 2013 (click to enlarge the photo)

The prairie planting will be done just east of Al, in a 1.3 acre triangle shaped arrangement in a pre-Christmas marriage ceremony. Pastorek Habitats, LLC will provide the seed for the awesome planting. All Louisiana’s folks are invited to be witnesses to this nuptial blessing. Here is one of the signs made recently to be placed along the highway shortly after their honeymoon is over. (photo courtesy of Ryan, via Jim)

IMG_6865

I hope to see ya’ll at the ceremony! Peace.