prairie ecology and management, topic for LMN Urban Ecology workshop, NOLA

I will be presenting the topic – “introduction to prairie ecology, prairie management and keystone plants of the prairie” for the Louisiana Master Naturalists of New Orleans’ URBAN ECOLOGY workshop on Saturday March 19th as a guest instructor. This workshop session is only open to those registered for the Master Naturalist program.

key take aways for the LMN presentation and field trip to Scout Island Prairie Habitat

1. Growing native prairie wildflowers and grasses gives a garden local identity.
2. Cultivating many prairie plots allows us to promote diversity and to preserve rare ecotypes that straddle the fence of extinction.
3. Prairie pants have historical and cultural significance and are a useful connection to the past.
4. Prairie grasses provide unique foliage texture. Their linear foliage refracts light and sings as the wind moves through.
5. Prairies are adorned with colorful flowers through the growing season.
6. Many prairie plants provide forage for wildlife. Birds feast on the plump fatty seeds of composites like Compass Plant. Butterflies abound in the prairie, sipping nectar  from their sun-loving food sources. Dragonflies hunt using strategic aerial feats to hone in on prey.
7. Most prairie plants are able to withstand extreme environmental conditions. Troublesome or unsightly areas of the landscape with baking sun and heavy clay soils are often ideal sites on which to establish a prairie garden. Prairie plantings can be used to reclaim wasteland in many cases.
8 Prairie plants (especially the grasses) have tenacious root systems that hold soil, filter ground water and prevent erosion.
9. Prairie plants are tough and resilient once established. Within 3 to 5 years after sowing, most micro-prairies are self-sustaining. Once established they will produce flowers and valuable seed for many years.
(Gail Barton, Meadowmakers catalog, 2007 – –  yardflower.com).
10. The restored prairie habitat serves as an outdoor classroom and as a “people pasture” (Madison, 1982)
11. There is a certain “revery” just being in a wildflower meadow, but the “revery” redoubles with the restoration of such a habitat. The gardener senses a deep feeling of “self-worth” that grows with each succeeding year as the gardener observes the plants and their biotic associates redevelop a sustainable habitat. (Vidrine and Borsari, 1998)

 

quote of the week

“no prairie – no monarchs”      March 1, 2016    –  some brilliant anonymous person

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Monarchs on Eupatorium serotinum, Mandeville, Louisiana, September 2015. This is why you don’t want to weed out your Eup serotinum. Its a generalist but its a superb nectar plant, as most Eups are. Thanks John Broderick for the image. John sent me other photos of this planting which is right at the edge of a side walk downtown.

Pioneering Biologist, Malcolm F. Vidrine writes prairie blog – don’t blow it and miss this fellow’s writings!

His blog is at    http://cajunprairiegardens.com

Malcolm sent me this link, below, the other day regarding Monarch numbers-populations, etc.

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/spring2016/05/monarch-butterfly-population-size.html

Was encouraged, inspired by my friend Charles Allen to start participating in the Firefly watch, initiated by the Boston Museum of Science     https://legacy.mos.org/fireflywatch/   I have a pretty good population of fireflies on the property here on the edge of Covington’s corp limit. Participate if’n you can! We need more southerners involved.

Feelin’ the burn…

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stirring it up! ..with a drip torch! Momma told me don’t play with fire 🙂  Stacy Huskins workin’ the water bag – top-right

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Walker Wilson selfie and me drip torchin’ the crescendo backing fire to slow down the head fire roaring at me – above

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Heather Wilson, Dr. Allen, and Stacy Huskins after the burn.  Laddering effect on a juvenile pine….and a cool ephemeral Mayapple in flower – Thanks Walker Wilson, for permission to share these burn photos!

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I’m pining for some Pine.

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a hitchhiker Katydid on Chuck Allen’s shoulder, just after we finished his controlled burn. Katydid hang out with the cool folks….  🙂

Met with the famous team of Horticulturists Steve and Jake on my way to Vernon Parish Friday. Saw Jake’s new organic veggie plantings and his new tiller – not just any old tiller but a real deal farm tiller. Go Jake! Jake is honing his veggie cut flower skills and will be in production soon with his new leased farmland. Steve graduates this fall with a masters degree in grooviness. Pretty sure Steve is responsible for “weeding” the prairie garden at Hamilton Hall – U of La. @ Lafayette. Naw, couldn’t have been Steve. Oh, the mysteries of life….

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Jake and Steve and I had shrimp poboys for lunch, bought and brought by none other than the Maestro himself, Professor Jim Foret. Prof. Jim had lunch with us and then it was off the the old Landfill, City of Lafayette, where in 1998 they, through the inspiration of Lafayette city employee Betty Vidrine, got help (and seed) from the Cajun Prairie Society for their Landfill prairie restoration. They have managed it, generally, with fire –  for these years and there were some good spots where it was obvious the grasses were pretty thick, photo below

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We toured the prairie gardens back in 2001 or 2 during a Cajun Prairie Society field trip and it was just a whippersnapper then, in early stages of natural succession. Friday we consulted with Regulatory Compliance- Environmental Quality Officer- Jackie Tidwell. I will write a report on what we saw sometime soon; observations and advice, etc.

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above, prairie on left and turf, right. notice the methane vent in the distance and the height of the landfill (house in the distance). This is the highest spot in Lafayette Parish.

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google-earth prairie patches

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Turn your City Landfill into a prairie habitat today! Makes for excellent use of space, rather than mowing, turns garbage into a wildlife habitat and party place! There’s gold in them-thar’ hills!!!!!!

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cool Luna Moth at Dr. Allen’s. We just saw this one since it was so cool at night. He has eight or so white sheets that are lit with screw-based black lights but he just added a mercury vapor light and he says it really brings them in. He had eleven Lunas on his sheets yesterday, including many other moths. Can you say hero?

Latimore Smith visits, consults with Blue Swamp Creek Nature Park project, Covington

I met with Latimore Smith, John Mayronne, and City of Covington – Keep Covington Beautiful Director Priscilla Floca yesterday so Latimore could share his brilliance with us. Latimore is one of the leading ecologists in the state and works for the Nature Conservancy, guiding their huge land holdings through active natural management techniques. He shared some really great ideas which we will most definitely put into action. Thanks to the TNC and Latimore for his valued input!!!

We will gitter’ done!!!

 

 

 

 

a trip to Rick Webb’s Louisiana Growers Nursery = a day well spent

For about 25 years now, Rick Webb’s nursery, Louisiana Growers, located just east of Amite, Louisiana, has been a staple-source for native trees, shrubs and herbs that are either native or adaptable to this region. Rick is still doing this work after all these years, it is clear, because he loves what he does.

Walk through his nursery and he will matter-of-factly tell you as you are passing by a particular crop, what side of the road, in what creek bottom of what Parish or County the cuttings were “collected” from.

This is not your typical Liriope nursery. This is Rick’s World! A lush land off the beaten path where the bottom line comes in the form of a pick-up truck and trailer loaded to the gills with radical plant stock, headed out to a new garden somewhere.

Louisiana Growers is a regional source for good and native plants. Rick is a regional source of hard-tack knowledge about the inner workings of nursery production geared toward the cutting-edge plant market. There are no frills here. Just good nursery stock and any lagniappe information you might need to help you succeed in transitioning a particular plants into the garden.

I recently made two back-to-back trips to visit Rick to pick up some goodies for my experimental meadows here at the home place. One plant I loaded up on was ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod, a selection of Solidago rugosa that was introduced to the nursery trade by my good friend Ken Moore of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, way back in 1993. Niche Gardens actually was first to grow the plant for sale. In trials at the Chicago Botanical Garden ‘Fireworks’ Goldenrod was rated number one of all the Solidagos tried. The plant, as Mick Jagger would say, is a gas, gas, gas!

Get you some, cher!

Another trip I made was for the very trendy dwarf grass, Tripsicum Floridanum, or Dwarf Fakahatchee grass. This is a plant of promise for natural landscaping on the Gulf Coastal plain. Drive around South Florida and you’ll see it just about everywhere, growing along roadways, in cottage gardens, and in cut-outs of parking lots in shopping malls. It is a really clean and neat plant, tight in growth yet robust in appearance. And dwarf. Folks like grasses to be dwarf, ya’ll. Its said that the plant has less than 500 specimens remaining in its native habitat however through wise nursery production(and locally, through Rick), it is quite available to use in the garden. Yip! This plant has no serious pests is known not to become a pest but it is an adaptable, persistent and long lived plant with lots of character and functionality.

Rick is a self described ‘Woody guy’, meaning he likes growing woody plants like trees and shrubs but he has lately been working with herbaceous plants since there has been a demand for it.

Rick has an eye for cultivated plants. He sees plants in the wildscape that are beautiful and grows cuttings of them for eventual sale. He is a plain-spoken plant connoisseur with a green thumb and nursery full of stock to prove it!

How has his nursery successfully made it through these hard economic times? Probably through shear perseverance, a little blood sweat and tears…. and a lot of love of and dedication to his work (oh, and a little help from his best friend, wife-and occasionally accountant, Susan).

Rick grows lots of native shrubs including several selections of Lyonia. He grows Arrow Wood, Cyrilla, Yaupon, and Possomhaw Holly. How many folks do you know do that? Very few. Maybe his mentor down the road, Margie Y. Jenkins, perhaps (Rick and Ms. Margie trade plants regularly)

Spruce Pine, Evergreen Sweet Bay, American Hornbeam/ Ironwood, Parsley Hawthorn? Ricks’s got it!!!! Plums? Red Cedar? unusually special Oaks? Got Virginia Willow? what a great plant. I have planted many selections of this wetland wonder from Rick over the years.

Need some stuff grown for an up and coming project? talk to Rick. He is one of many dedicated nursery-type-folks who doesn’t let dust settle on his shoulder. Rick works, and he produces lots of leafy gems for stellar gardens.IMG_3019

Rick with ‘new crop’ trees healed-in in a pine bark pile back in February

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Landscape Architect Blake Guidry searches at Rick’s for just the right stuff.

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A crop of Cyrilla seedlings showing genetic diversity in late Winter.

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above: a dwarf gene was prominent in this Cyrilla seedling

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a nice red-foliaged Leatherwood…

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Long Leaf pines in grass-stage, for the taking!

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a sweetly nurtured crop of Cajun Prairie genetics of Big Bluestem grass grown by Rick via contract for a cattle forage project in southwestern Louisiana (summer 2011)

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Rick, with the assistance of horticulturist Gail Barton, grew Indian grass plugs via seed from Cajun Prairie genes. (summer 2012)

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massive trees dug and loaded from Rick’s field, by Rick himself! (2012)

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after twenty five years of making his name growing woody trees and shrubs, he may be famous one day for spotting this herbaceous genetic anomaly of Manfreda virginica that I have named Manfreda virginica var. marginata ‘Rick Webb’. Its a plant that he spotted in a crop of Rattlesnake Master that he grew for me and identified it as ‘unusual’. He pulled it to the side for safe keeping and gave it to me later. Good eye, Rick!

thanks for all the good plants!  🙂

 

Rick’s Louisiana Growers serves the wholesale nursery market.

 

Louisiana Growers website

http://lanativeplants.com/

Louisiana Growers availability list

http://lanativeplants.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/avlapr14.pdf