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!!!!

 

 

 

 

Hammond Garden Camellia Stroll set/ burn at Eunice prairie successfully conducted by Society members!

After about two weeks of worrying with it, we successfully executed reguvenating controlled burns yesterday at the main 10 acre Eunice prairie restoration site and also, at the Cajun Prairie Society’s two and a half acre whippersnapper-prairie just across the railroad tracks, to the north. Both took an hour a piece to accomplish. Fun and entertainment was had by all.

It was a beautiful cloudless sky to work under, with smoke-lifting atmospheric conditions that were perfect for a safe burn within the City of Eunice corp limit. We had the Eunice Fire Department on hand for the celebratory event. They had our backs.

It was all over before we knew it.

Lots of preparation goes into this sort of thing. Thanks to all who helped. Couldn’t have done it without the CPHPS Fire Bugs!

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prescription, certified and notorized!

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Brian Early was chief drip-torch dude on the western and northern flank. We pushed the fire against the wind for a solid-as-a-rock back-burn.

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it was toasty out there, folks!

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stylin’ Jackie Duncan, the Toastess with the Mostest, brought home “best-dressed” award 🙂  Jackie’s accompanied by the Cajun Prairie pioneer Dr. Malcolm Vidrine and assistants, Steve Nevitt, Jake Delahoussey, and Brian Sean Early

Looking forward to seeing the old Camellia grove at the Hammond Research Station gardens on February 22. These are plantings that are said to be from the 30’s through the 50’s. My friend Dr. Charles Allen is making the trip to visit and I plan to tag along. It should be a fun and informative event with hard-to-find camellias for sale. C’mon, ya’ll!

hope to see you there.  here’s a link to the info page on the Camellia Stroll

http://www.lsuagcenter.com/news_archive/2015/January/headline_news/Camellia-stroll-set-for-Feb-22-in-Hammond-.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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old plants of Penstemon digitalis and laevigata rosetting-up

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Little Bluestem, green, green.

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narrow-leaf Mountain Mint, yum, yum

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Monarda, Monarda, Monarda

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

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probably fifteen acres of steel building. Holy bovine!

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

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

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

 

Grass Class a smash!

“Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, Grasses have joints when the cops aren’t around.”  Dr. Charles M. Allen, October 2014

Just returned from three days of sorting out the glumes, lemmas and spikelets of native grasses and their associates at the first invitational Charles M. Allen Native Grass Class. I’m a little conflicted as to which part of the class was the best: the course work, the food, or the people in attendance. That’s a tough call, ya’ll.

The timing for the course was perfect for me since all of these fall fruiting plants are just becoming available to harvest and because of that, I will add forty or more species to the final species list for my Calcasieu Parish wetlands habitat/ mitigation banking restoration projects. Grasses and grass-like plants seem to be the most obscure and probably the most unappreciated plants but they have an very important roll in sustaining us here on planet Earth.

I am a big fan of colorful, flowering plants but what interests me most of all are these odd-ball native grasses.

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The first step of the Twelve Step program is admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion.    …click on photos to enlarge them..

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with a hand lens you can determine the details that separate the many species of Rhyncospera

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To know Charles Allen’s humor, sometimes you need to really know Charles Allen.

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Marshallia graminifolia amongst the Toothache grass in a Pine bog, in Kisatchie

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The ghostly Liatris elegans, Pink Scale Blazing Star, huddled up with its pyrogenic grass partner, the demure Thin Leafed Bluestem

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the rather discreet but very beautiful Pink Scale Blazing Star

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One of my favorite grasses, Pineland Dropseed, a most beautiful thing. Horticultural applications for this plant are numerous. It is the perfect native lawn grass plant, too.

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Field Paspalum, Paspalum laeve

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….figuring out Juncus dichotomus

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Dr. Allen, walking with fellow student Ann, in the field that he and I burned in January

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Two very old and outstanding organisms. 🙂 …hopefully I will be one, one day, too.                                           Dr. Allen found this, the largest existing Large Gallberry tree in the world, in Kisatchie, right at the very edge of his property, where his joins the National Forest.

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We stumbled upon a very old Yaupon in our travels, too.

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Professor Jim checks the pulse of this ancient rippled Youpon Holly, Ilex vomitoria

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Dr. Allen leads us through the diverse grasslands of Kisatchie National Forest

Dr. Allen is hosting a Native Plant Identification workshop soon that covers flowering plants and some grasses, etc. click on the link below for information…

http://nativeventures.net/plant%20id%20workshop%20oct%2028-30.pdf

 

 

 

Louisiana’s Cajun mountains

I had the most wonderful opportunity last Wednesday to meet up with Christopher Reid at one of the newly discovered Coastal Tall grass prairies located on private land in Calcasieu Parish. The prairie exists on an old and very large cattle farm operation stretching south from  the town of Vinton all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Chris is botanist for the State Natural Heritage Program. His job is finding, preserving and assisting in managing rare land and the vegetation that grows on it. Last summer, Chris and his fellow Wildlife and Fisheries staff members erected fenced-off study plots to exclude cattle from the vegetation within. This will, over time, give the vegetation a rest from grazing and should provide a unique opportunity to see what species return naturally. It was a really exciting and interesting visit for me considering that as far as we know yet, there are no longer any good and sizable examples of our native prairie preserved in Louisiana. This farm, like three others the State is working with, has the potential to be brought back to its former glorious self: a natural, diverse prairie complete with Pimple Mound formations. One of the most significant things I saw was the height of the pimple mounds (Mima mounds, Coppice dunes) that were scattered across the landscape. Mima mounds are naturally occurring circular raised areas of soil, laid down during the late Pleistocene era (that’s a long time ago, folks). The soils are really sandy, and it shows. Chris and I were finding plants that aren’t normally this close to the Gulf. They aren’t except on top of these mounds. These were high mounds all right, up to four feet tall or maybe a bit higher. Ones I had previously seen were just slightly raised areas a few inches or so high and several feet around. So dramatically different and the altitude of these so high, they were well worthy of being called Cajun mountains, especially considering the flatness of the land in this part of the state.

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above: Chris Reid on top of a nearly imperceptible Cajun mountain

All plants that were not on the mounds were indicative of a high moisture regime, meaning they showed the soils there were for the most part, very wet. Conspicuous was the Brownseed paspalum, Texas Coneflower, Hairy Fruited Hibiscus, Water Hemlock, and the other usual Cajun Prairie suspects.

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Hairy Fruited Hibiscus has lots of fuzz

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above: the foliage of the Carrot Family member, Hooker’s Eryngo IMG_5209

above: native Hairy Petunia Ruellia humulus tucked in with the obnoxious multiflora rose, an invasive exotic species that gets around via fruit-eating birds. Rosa multiflora is a hateful, thorny thing.

Up on the mountains were plants from way up in Vernon Parish, 100 miles north, where the soils are super-sandy. Who ever heard of Sassafras less than a mile from coastal fresh water marsh? The mima mounds have, thats who! This sand loving Sassafras stood out like a sore thumb. She was hanging out with her buddies Queen’s Delight, Wooly White, and a bunch of other highlanders, way up where the air is much thinner. And the view from atop the mountains? ….you could see for a hundred feet!

There were several odd-ball species found on the flats, too. White Topped Sedge, typically a Pine herbaceous species, was growing right there in the wet prairie soils, big as the sky. Hooker’s Eryngo was a new species for me. I am the biggest fan of Eryngium species in general, and seeing this in the wild was quite the treat. I got that same feeling I used to get as a kid when the ice cream truck music sounded through my old neighborhood. This species is not listed in the distribution book for that Parish, nor is it in the Floristic Assessment for Coastal Prairie. Nice! Also present and accounted for was Rough Leafed Goldenrod and the Antelope Horn and Longleaf Milkweeds.

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Rough Leafed Goldenrod

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Long Leaf Milkweed

Strangely and conspicuously absent was Switch grass and Gamma grass. Overgrazing, Chris suspected. I did find what I thought to be a small clump of Big Bluestem, which got him all excited. Its pretty easily id’d even at an early, infertile stage. He was glad to see it barely grazed outside the pens

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above: Chris took me in the direction of the gulf to look for a plant he had seen on an earlier trip. We hiked about a while to a Buffalo wallow area (a marias), where he collected a tiny grass-like plant (that I forget the name of) as a state record for Calcasieu Parish. Yip Yip!!

As we were done and leaving, we wheeled out of the farm property and onto the Parish road, where Chris slowed to show me Side Oats Gramma grass growing big as can be and thick as hair on a goat’s back. This was the catch of the day for me. I have only seen this a couple of times in Louisiana and seeing it a stone’s throw from the Gulf was both exciting and encouraging. Until now, I thought that growing this plant this close to the Gulf was not possible. It was a very hopeful end of the trip for me. I would like to one day be able to work with it more than I have. It has great ornamental and restoration potential. If I can, I’ll get a couple of handfuls of seed when they ripen perhaps, and see what comes of growing it.

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Side Oats Gramma grass in flower, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana

ULL’s Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology offers Pure Native™prairie seed availability!

The CEET center, as its commonly called, is a research facility of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. One of the programs on line there is a native seed operation developed by the Director, Dr. Susan Mopper. Dr. Mopper and her colleagues have been hard at work for many years, producing seed for herbaceous planting projects in Acadiana and the surrounding region. The seed is collected from gardens that were established for research and for seed production.

This is exciting news since we need all of the seed producers of natives that the market can support, and more!

The Center offers seed and can contract-grow prairie plants, as well. They have, on site, a state-of-the-art greenhouse and the technical wherewithal to grow cool plants for cool projects.

Dr. Mopper is currently offering seed of 24 wildflowers and 9 grasses. This is really great news since I regularly get requests for individual seed but have found over the years that this is not practical nor profitable (at least it wasn’t for me). Now I have a place to send people to when I’m asked, instead of sending them out-of-state. yip!! Dr. Mopper also offers custom growing of wildflowers and grasses so you can request and accept delivery of some way-cool plants grown by the best, with local genetics. This is a really good thing.

Its very likely you’ll have mixed results with growing the seed since some local genetics have less than good germination while some have excellent germination. This is typical for Cajun Prairie seed. Actually, with this seed, we’ve found that some years seed is particularly viable and other years not so much. Germination of our local prairie ecotypes varies from species to species and from year to year. And don’t be a fool and throw out a seed tray after the first year. I’ve seen seed germinate and grow after the second winter, after it gets double dormancy requirements met. Some seed may take a year or two or more to germinate. Some, like Big Bluestem, will probably only produce 5% or less seedlings of the seed sown. But if you sow it out directly into the field, you may see like I did, that the eed is viable, it just needs the right circumstances to grow. As Charles Allen, Famous Prairie guru and third degree black belt in buffet says, “be patient, grasshopper”.

Careful though, with one of their species. One they refer to as Blue Mountain Mint. I have always heard it called Lowland Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum. They probably shouldn’t sell this species or if they do, they should sell it with a written disclaimer, since if you get it started in your garden, it may not get stopped. Its a runner. A very aggressive plant. It’ll take the back forty if you let it so…beware. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pollinator plant par excellence and is a fantastic nurse-plant for large prairie restorations, but I would consider this a bad weed in a garden situation. Anyone who has grown it would agree! However, all the other species are saweet!!

See descriptions of these and other super prairie plants in my old Meadowmakers catalog at this link. Gail Barton produced this 2007 catalog back when I thought selling individual species was going to make me some “monay”!!! whoot!

Um, boy I was wrong.     🙂

CEET site           http://ulecology.com/site53.php

my catalogue     https://marcpastorek.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/mmcatalog2007.pdf