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.

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Pineland Milkweed, Asclepias obovata

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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.

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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.

Click to access 201403.pdf

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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.

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wetness….

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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

 

 

 

Monty the Dog Goes to the Farm!/ awesome new LSU Hilltop meadow planting-planning/ City of Mandeville-La DOT pine prairie planting completed/LSU Hilltop Arbo Symposium speakers finalized, announced

 

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Monty the Wonderdog, captured in digital form, on his way to the seed farm in Mississippi the other day. Monty likes fetching sticks and smelling-out deer and other wild critters in the native grass fields. Most of all, though, he likes to stick his head out of the window to get a sense of the neighborhoods along the route. That’s what he’s best at, plus the fact that he’s a certified therapy dog and all. He’s not an amateur dog, he’s a professional! He was pleased with the day overall, he said.   (click on the pic and see him up close. He’s funny.)

I just got the notice for details for speakers for the Hilltop Arboretum’s winter Symposium and what a great line-up it is. I will, of course, be speaking on grass landscapes (duh) for the home garden and the urban environment. The symposium is geared to gardens and garden plants rather than ecological landscapes. It sounds like it will be a fun time with a speaker’s get-together the night before, so I’ll be able to catch up with a few folks I haven’t seen in many years and some I’ve never met. here is the link to the Hilltop Symposium announcement. There’ll be more info coming soon, I’m sure.

http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/hilltop/adult-programs/symposium/

Yesterday, Doug Reed was in Baton Rouge to discuss the new prairie natural area being designed for the Hilltop Arboretum. Doug is an nationally recognized landscape designer, an LSU grad, principal partner in the firm Reed-Hilderbrand, LLC, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Doug and I collaborated 3 years ago on the initial design phase of the Hilltop prairie when it was just an idea and we worked together on the super-sleek Repentance Park project in Baton Rouge shortly after that. I hear that I will likely be involved in the final horticultural details and if I get lucky, provide the seed for the actual plantings once the construction of the prairie meadows begin. I was invited to be present at Doug’s presentation to the Hilltop board of directors but am too busy with planting right now to pick my head up. Gotta make hay while the sun shines. Peggy Davis, the Director at Hilltop, organized a field trip to Crosby Arboretum and to my seed farm last summer to get a hands-on feel for what a real restored prairie is. A bus load of people connected to Hilltop visited and walked the Meadowmakers prairie paths. They must have liked what they saw since the project to create real biodiversity via constructed natural areas of meadows is still on! whoot!

Once completed, this planting will provide an outdoor classroom and research area for landscape design and biology students right in the heart of Baton Rouge.

The City of Mandeville’s wildflower conservation planting has been completed as of last Friday. I met with the very capable Herb Piller, a landscape designer with Louisiana Department of Transportation that day. He was interested in the planting process and took a few photos, asked a few questions.

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above, top: the western most planting in Mandeville at the intersection of Highway 190 and Causeway Approach Rd, and below that, the eastern most planting. All complete and ready for seed to stratify! I will be managing these gardens for two years as part of the installation contract. Really nice Long Leaf pines from Louisiana Growers! go Rick!

The burn team got together and did some controlled burning at the seed farm in Mississippi yesterday. It was perfect conditions for a wild fire and thanks to our dedicated volunteers, we got two major sections done without burning the neighborhood down. These were two areas, about four acres altogether, with two years of fuel built-up and the humidity was really high with lots of grass present so we had some really spectacular visuals and adrenaline rushes from the leaping, flaming vegetation. Lots of poppin’ and crackin’ in the low, wet areas between the hill slopes. It was quite the event, ya’ll (don’t try this at home kids)!

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above: My good friend Jim McGee uses the awesome-Terry-Johnson-devised/ Terry Johnson-built, Kabota-mounted, PTO-powered spray rig, to douse the flames as they work into the fire lines at the Meadowmakers seed farm and genetic preserve, Carriere, Mississippi, December 10, 2014. Terry is a old-time good friend, who grew up on a farm in Iowa. He is a farm-taught mechanical engineer who can build and fix anything. He and Jim both have a heart of gold.

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a good burn was had by all, ya’ll 🙂

Mulberry Meyhem, the last deathly gasp of Frey Prairie, LSU Poster interview, Advocate news article and a crazy-cool pine prairie planting in Pineville

Its been an amazing week in the life of yours truly. I keep pinchiing myself thinking its a crazy dream… Its been a month and a half of nonstop seed collecting. Since October 1, its rained maybe twice on two days and I have been taking advantage of the dry. We have been able to manage gathering from some really wonderful prairie sites this year. We are extremely grateful for this.

Also, I am grateful that my friend, colleague, mentor, fellow prairie dude, Dr. Charles Allen, who had heart surgery Thursday, has made a progressively positive recovery so far. I talked to him today for the first time since, and he seemed totally himself. First thing he asked was “how’d it go at the Mulberry Mayhem?”. The general always worries about the battle. Go Charles!!!! His daughter Tanya wrote a note and said that when he arrived at the hospital ready for surgery, the Dr. asked him “what brought you here today, Dr. Allen” and he spouted back, “the car”. That’s the Charles Allen I know.

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above, Dr. Charles M. Allen points out Drosera intermedia at the Crosby, Hillside Bog field trip, Crosby Arboretum satellite property, Harrison County, Mississippi, in April 2013

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God breathes life into Adam, Sistine Chapel

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See you out on the prairie soon, Doc. And put some clothes on.

Cajun Prairie Society troops manned their battle stations yesterday and caused some mayhem amongst the White Mulberry trees at the Cajun Prairie Society’s Northwest property on East Bacciochi Avenue. The really cool thing about this is that all who showed, totally abhor herbicides and all that they stand for, but because they all love prairie so much, they donned their gear and stepped off the abyss.

Where the mulberry infestation is so particularly troublesome is on this two acre property (its a mitigation bank property) that is managed by the Cajun Prairie Society. We have attempted to restore it to some degree in the past but never really addressed it fully. The first time was sometime around 1999 when we just did some plugging of prairie sod rescued from the Frey prairie remnant, south of Eunice. Giant Ragweed kind of took the place over while we weren’t looking, we got distracted. Charles had fully gotten the Tallows out using Clearcast, but Oaks and Mullberries and Chinese Privet and a few other species of trees and vines have had a field day there. We started over from scratch a couple of years ago by cutting and removing everything off the property. Trees twenty feet tall, everything was cut and removed from the property. Our mistake was we didn’t spray for a year after. We seeded and its been like a 200 pound gorilla on my back ever since. Although there are prairie species throughout, scattered. The Society believes we can turn that sucker around, though. Charles has a good working strategy. We have been up against the ropes getting pummeled for the last year, when we started slugging our way out of it with a good spray in summer, some experimental Tordon herbicide apllications in the prime window, this September, and then Saturday, hitting them with a solid one-two punch. Those mulberries don’t have a chance, dude. They are going down one way or another. Those fellows fought and scratched their way through the nasty vegetation and dosed the trees with the dreaded Tordon (a real nasty thing). We used it because we had tried just about everything else. We treated some in September and seems to have done some good. We tried three different approaches: cutting the basal stem with a machete and then spraying the cuts, spraying without a cut, and cutting the trees down at the ground and treating the stump. We had obvious kill. Thanks Andrew Dolan, (private lands coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service) for the sage advice about the Tordon). It took some bold souls to do the job. They got ‘er done. I was in charge, taking the place of Dr Allen while he is in hospital so I did absolutely nuthin’ but point my finger 🙂 Jackie, Margaret and CC worked on the Eunice restoration site.

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above, the guys ready for the White Mulberry throw-down,  Stacy Huskins, Brian Early, Steve Nevett and Jacob Delehoussey.

Last Saturday, an article written by Stephanie Bruno, a reporter from the New Orleans Morning Advocate, was printed, promoting my talk at the New Orleans Botanical Garden for the Green Council Inspire Speaker. The article was great, I thought. Short and sweet. Stepahanie got it mostly all right. And the talk went okay, I hope. Only had two sleepers out of twenty five (just kidding). I noticed when I was talking about natural succession and fire, everybody was smiling. When I talked about herbicides, everybody frowned. I do another talk, pretty much on the same subject on December 13th and I will incorporate more to do with home gardens. The Green Build Council talk was more for landscape architects. this is the link to the article if you haven’t seen it yet. Thanks, Stephanie!

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/features/10767427-171/incorporate-native-plants-grasses-and

I planted, with a lot of help, a prairie landscape in Pineville, Louisiana, Tuesday. I worked with the client through Tony Tradewell, a landscape architect who works out of Alexandria.

I arrived in the morning and Tony helped, along with two fellows who work with the homeowner regularly. It was great because we got it all done, 4 and a half acres, in a few hours, seeding it all by hand. The homeowner used his tractor to sow a bunch of annual color, like we used Clasping Leaf Coneflower and American Bachelor Button and a bunch of other stuff, over what we seeded, along with a combination of Rye grass and cereal rye to help stabilize the soil since it was a steep slope and well tilled soil, yikes.

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The Hunt Prairie

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above, Prairiedog, June Bug, and Cookie, all finished with the cool planting at the Hunt residence

I made two back-to-back trips to Eunice for seed collecting this week and loaded up on some amazingly rich seed collections. I processed and stored most of it and have some left yet to store. I will be offering the mix from the Restoration site as an exclusive Cajun Prairie Restoration site seed mix and a portion of the money that comes from these seed sales goes to the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society. This seed mix has its origin from all of the remnant prairies that Drs. Allen and Vidrine discovered and transferred genetics from in the late 1980’s, to the Eunice property.

This summer and fall we have put some amazingly diverse and varied seed mixes together along with some individual species collections. Check into this on the blog under “About our Seed”. My machine (the dinosaur) is teaching me new tricks on how to get stuff I never knew I could. Been experiment’n.

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above, our seed storage room, nice, chillin’ and getting full.

I left Eunice super early this morning and got home before the rain got here, so I safely made the trip without getting the seed wet. Wet seed, not good. Yay!

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above, Brian’s photo of me in the zen zone, drying awesome Cajun prairie seed at the Eunice Parking lot. When you rake the seed, it smells of the honey-sweetness of licorice goldenrod, Solidago odora. yum-num

I met Thursday with Jiaze Wang, a student who is working on her doctoral studies at LSU under Dr. Eugene Turner. Dr. Turner teaches a restoration course at LSU (Oceanography and Coastal Sciences). Jiaze and I met at the Chapapeela Park in Hammond, where an awesome prairie is kicking, like Bruce Lee.

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Chapapeela is doing this! its something to see, folks. Its wild.

Jiaze and a student friend of hers and I walked the prairie, she photographed, asked questions, and then we went out of the cold at the Park administration building where she and her friend recorded an indoors interview which will be posted on line at some point, as I understand it. She will make a poster about Chapapeela, about our work with building the prairie gardens there and elsewhere, I think. And they may post the interview on line. As Popeye would say, ‘How embarrasking”.

Lastly, as soon as I got home this morning, I headed to the farm to see some of my old friends planted there. I mainly wanted to see my Frey prairie planting. Since last week, I am mourning the sad and sudden death of Frey Prairie remnant. This amazing, hallowed and sacred ground was discovered by Dr Allen and Dr Vidrine back in the early days of prairie Louisiana prairie research. It was thrilling to walk through. Frey Prairie remnant was a small fraction of what was the once-vast Plaquemine Prairie, which was a small part of what was the Great Southwest Prairie of Louisiana; 2.5 million acres of Gulf Coastal Tall grass prairie, located in the southwestern section of La. Frey was clearly one of the last great gem remnants in the state and one of the most floriferous, diverse pieces of ground in the South, one of the most heavenly places on planet Earth. As far as I know, My planting at the farm, about an acre, is the only remaining genetics that have been established using exclusively Frey prairie genes. The Eunice prairie is a mix, Dr. Vidrines Cajun Gardens is a mix, of prairie remnants they fould. I collected seed at Frey on one day in October 2001 and planted the seed in this one acre plot in November. It is a genetic representation of Frey prairie. Today it is a wonderfully diverse and gardenesque planting that gives me great pleasure and total, absolute enjoyment. I was so stunned, when a week ago, I went to Frey to visit and saw that it had been turned in to a rice field edge. Turned upside down and made a rice levee. What an awful crime scene it was. So sad that people don’t see any value in this stuff. Maybe we can change that.

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above, photos from 1987, by Malcolm Vidrine, of Frey prairie, when it was still in tact (from the book, The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History) click to enlarge, ya’ll

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Above, a photo of Frey from 2012, with Manfreda virginica in foreground and the purple of Liatris squarosa behind.

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above, a Live Oak seedling has grown in spite of fire, in my Frey prairie planting, Carriere, Mississippi, 2014, 13 years after planting. It is the bomb.

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when you’re on the ground, you can see the difference in the frequency benefit of burning. The left (west) side of the Frey prairie field has been burned five times in 13 years and the right has been burned only three. A lot more weedy stuff in the right side as compared to cool cat garden on the left. The right side area is still very diverse but with more Canada Goldenrod, Privet, and a little less grasses.

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Manfreda virginica in my Frey planting

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High-dollar Helianthus molls and Rudbeckia grandiflora. They don’t call it grandiflora for nuthin’

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the most delightfully aromatic and pretty unique plant, Sweet Goldenrod, Solidago odora. Frey prairie lives on!!!!!!

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These are some shots of some of the Duralde restoration Demo plots, north of Eunice. Two acres of individual species blocks (10 ftx 12 ft), planted with Cajun Prairie species, 80 in all. I got to see it just after the paths were mowed. This is the brainchild of Dr. Allen.

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a nice ground cover of Eryngium yuccafolium, a thick stand of juvenile seedlings

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Lespedeza capitata, nicely settled in this rectangle. Go Team Prairie!!!

dude, cool Jim Willis video on quail habitat reconstruction. see link

AsterMan rescues the fall garden!

One of the things I like most about fall weather is that it brings out the fall-blooming asters. They seem to pop-up out of nowhere in natural prairies and the pine lands of the Central Gulf Coastal area this time of year. Some of them may never be considered for a garden, but some should.

One of the most prolific weeds in my yard is the wonderful Woods Aster or Button Aster, Aster Dumosus. Its a prolific plant that seeds itself all over the place. Its a weed, basically. I have come to recognize it in a seedling stage of growth so I am always looking out for more and trying to keep them as often as I can. The bees seem think it is exceptional, too, they are all over an aster, any aster, when its in bloom. I very much appreciate its ornamental qualities. Woods Aster is a lacey, fine-cut thing, with white flower rays surrounding a darker central yellow- then reddish disk. It mostly sprawls about, leaning this way and that but occasionally it makes a perfectly rounded three feet ball in the landscape, covered with hundreds of tiny white flowers,   …and bees.

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the demure but very worthy Aster dumosus is a good addition to the wildlife garden.

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a honey bee works a tiny flower of Aster dumosus in my garden. above

Asters are not easily identified generally, but some have particular characteristics that set them apart from others and can be easily placed with a proper name. I can usually ID about a half dozen of the multitude we have in or wildscapes. A few have really solid ornamental value and should be offered more often, for sale.

One that should is the Carolina Climbing Aster or Aster carolinianus (not native to the Central GC). It is very beautiful and a fun plant to work with. I got one last spring in a one gallon container when shopping at Mary Elliot’s Fronderosa Gardens Nursery in Hammond, Louisiana. I knew just where it would go when I saw it. So in it went and a few times this summer, maybe just a couple, I took a few minutes to guide, to train it up one of my Scarecrow faced sculptures. The one I was working with is a ceramic face on a cedar post, standing about nine feet tall near the front door of the house here in Covington. The scarecrow torso is made of old barbed wire, coiled and tacked to the post. The climbing aster grew up through the wire and reached to the “neck” of the sculpture, named Phine Phellow (Fine Fellow).

Its really has been fun to watch it almost on its own, reach the top in a single growing season. And then it bloomed. How nice a display of glorious pink color and bee activity it is.

Its like mild-mannered Phine Phellow ducked into a phone both and changed into Aster Man, Attractor of the Bees, over night.

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above: AsterMan a month or so ago in foliage of green.

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Check him out in his new stealthy suit, ya’ll! He’s gone pink! 🙂

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A Monarch loads-up with Carolina Aster nectar before continuing on her trip south, November 4th, 2014.

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 Aster carolinianus

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! 🙂

 

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

 

Pastorek Habitats’ science mentioned in Landscape Architecture magazine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Silphium perfoliatum is a robust, large leafed thing

 

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

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

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

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

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

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the meadow, ready for seed

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

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

 

after a dozen years, interseeding at the Farm!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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before fire       click to enlarge photos

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after fire

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

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Silphium, Rosenweed, before the fire…

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and after….

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

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…and after the fire.

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

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preparing the Low-Mow lawn seeding area

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

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

Ya’ll should come! We welcome you!

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

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january

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April

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June

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October

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December

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

good day!!!

 

butterflies from scratch

Charles Allen started working at Ft. Polk, the Army owned part of Kisatchie National Forest, about ten years ago. It was his chance to live his dream of moving back to the country. He wanted to reach back to his roots.

When he and His wife Susan were house hunting, they stumbled on a property that turned out to be perfect to set-up shop. It was a house with twenty five acres of sandy farm land, adjoining Kisatchie National Forest with just a short hike to the meandering Ouiska Chitto creek. After they took ownership of the new digs, Charles immediately got busy with building gardens. Over time, he has created a desitnation for winged critters, with a series of wonderfully managed, purposeful and function-based gardens.

Charles likes to laugh. His gardens express the creative side of his personality.

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above: a vista of Globe Amaranth extends from the guest house with gardens, full with porterweed, in the distance

If you really want to take-in all of the very special, delightfully-themed gardens, you have to be there at different times of the day. Morning brings well-rested hummerbirds and countless bees find a good day’s work in the flowering plants that are in season. As morning turns to afternoon, Butterflies and Skippers partake in the  The sky is scattered with Dragonflies that hover and swoop with aerial dexterity. And dusk brings the Hummingbird moths who come for the specially designed gardens with nocturnal plants chosen just for this purpose. Is there a better treat than to sit with a glass of cool iced tea and sip as the Hummingbird Moths start to roll in. This amazing specialized creature is so unique and fun to watch. It kind of hovers and feels its way around the flowers by way of its probiscus, imbibing the “sweet tea” concoction of Moonvine, Nicotiana, Night blooming Luffa, Datura metel and Datura stramonium. It samples the nectar and then it goes stumbling off to catch its breath but it is sure to make a quick return for another drink.

(click on photos to enlarge)

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above: the Daturas in the Moon Garden with night-opening flowers ready for nectaring nocturnals: Moonvine (Ipomoea alba), Nicotiana species, Night blooming Luffa and Horn of Plenty (Datura metel) and Datura stramonium (Jimson weed).

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above: the Hummingbird Moth (Maduca rustica) feeding on Four O’clocks, an attracting staple-plant at the B and B gardens.

Even though he is a native plant authority, Charles doesn’t exclude non-native plants in the gardens. Exotic and natives alike are used for very specific purposes. He has quite the extensive horticultural collection.

Large portions of the house specialty-species, Porterweed ((Stachytarpheta jamaicensis), are served-up all over the B and B Gardens, as Charles dishes out cuttings by the potfull each year via a tiny self-built greenhouse. Porterweed, Charles says, is one of the best butterfly attracting plants.

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above: porterweed: butterfly magnet

You may not see all of the finer points of the gardening effort without Dr Allen’s personal tour. He’ll walk with you along the paths discussing the purpose of particular Paw Paw tree, planted as a host plant for raising Zebra Swallowtail caterpillars.  And if you time your visit just right, you’ll find yourself there on a crisp October morning when the Morning Glory flower crop is peaking, providing you a three dimensional horse-shoe-shaped tunnel of gloriously colored trumpets to stroll through.

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Good morning, Glory!

Allen has built and maintained woodland trails leading to the quite of the Ouiskachitto. Along one trail a garden called the Succession Wheel, provides an opportunity to see the stages in which land is naturally revegetated. The “wheel” is a large circle designated in the landscape that demonstrates eight successive years of growth all in one small area. This one of my favorite of the B and B Gardens.

For a brief description of how the wheel is designed and managed, see the link below of a a very short essay written by Dr. Allen on the garden design

https://marcpastorek.wordpress.com/natural-ecological-succession/

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above: Dr. Allen standing in the center of an eight year, fully cycled Succession Wheel garden.

Continuing west past the succession wheel is the resident-sharecropping Leaf Cutter ant colony, working hard on their land diligently.  By the hundreds, these ants bring pieces of leaves underground to be cultivated in their fungus gardens. The fungus that grows on the leaves is the food that sustains the colony. These are said to be typically found in sandy soils and this land has plenty of that.

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above: cutters at work, carrying burden

click the link below and watch the first seconds of the youtube video. Its rad.

On summer nights, Charles regularly uses this route to the Creek for counting and documenting fireflies: one of his summer nocturnal pleasures. As a citizen-scientist, he and many volunteers in the eastern U.S., by documenting the numbers of sightings, are helping the scientists at the Museum of Science, Boston, understand what is happening to this dissapearing species. see the link below for info on firefly watch.

https://legacy.mos.org/fireflywatch/

For high entertainment on a particularly special night, Charles will set up night viewing equipment for viewing nocturnal insects, looking for the interesting night flyers, like the Luna Moths or Sphinx Moths and other associated cohorts that come out after dark.

(click photos)

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banded sphinx moth

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catalpa sphinx moth

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azalea sphinx moth

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i o Moth

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hieroglyphic moth

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rosy maple moth

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imperial moth

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golden looper night nectaring on globe amaranth

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the laughter moth (Charandra diridens)     hahahaha!

(photos by Sue and Charles Allen)

One thing is sure, not a garden is as unique in the state. And not a more dedicated and caring gardening couple is there in Sue and Charles Allen. Its a lesson that teaches us that gardens can be as varied as the gardeners that toil in them.

Visit the B and B gardens and see the fruits of their good work when the Allens host the annual event that is the Allen Acres “Butterfly Blast” on September 27-29, east of Deridder, about fifteen miles, in a tiny community just west of the metropolis of Pitkin, Louisiana. You’ll have a blast!

for more on the blast see

Click to access butterflyallenacres.pdf

http://www.nativeventures.net/

http://www.lnps.org/

……..enjoy!