LSU AgCenter Station/Bot Garden, Hammond, getting down and dirty with native prairie horticulture

Some really serious horticulture work has been done with these genetics since that time.

I made time to visit with Dr. Yan and Dr. Allen Owings recently. I brought with me, the crop of Side Oats Gramma grass that I grew since June when I made a road side dig in Cameron Parish. I dug enough off the road edge to make about seventy nice and full, quart sized containers. Most of these I loaded into the pick-up and brought to the Station on Tuesday.

Dr. Yan says some of the Side Oats will go into what she calls her “Care and Maintenance” beds, which are demonstration gardens planted with one of the most popular of garden plants, the everblooming Rose, the Knockout Rose. The idea is to demonstrate how folks can use native prairie plants with the most common, everyday garden plants, so that one day local-genetic prairie plants, the ecological wonders that they are, will become more popular and more available for you and me.


above, the site of my collection of the rare-gene-pool population of Side Oats Gramma grass, south and west of Vinton, Louisiana, a stone’s throw from the Gulf and the Sabine. A very special thanks to Partyin’ fool Bubba (Bubbette) for throwing out his or her Miller Light beer litter so I can demonstrate to you how very short the Gramma actually is. I stuck my machete in the ground, center, (see?), and the grass was about a foot tall in foliage with nice, typical, nearly-invisible flowering inflorescenses. To get some, you might have to beat out the spray guys. Last year I showed up to dig and the whole strip was nuked brown. This year I got em!


the Grassmobile is going to market!! This eco-type of Side Oats has great potential for horticultural heights in Louisiana.


above, this is the area where some of the native prairie stuff is at the Research Station, the three north-south oriented at the bottom left are grasses and forbs and three longer, east-west oriented garden beds on the bottom right of the screen are the Care and Maintenance gardens        click photo to enlarge it….


Indian grass, Switch grass, left, and Cajun Prairie Rudbeckias, on the right, at the demo gardens at the Hammond AgCenter Station Research and Botanical Garden, Hammond Louisiana


Rudbeckia grandiflora (foreground) and Rudbeckia nidita (in back), in full fruit


Dr. Yan’s Care and Maintenance gardens, with Rosey-Red Knock-out Roses, Indian grass (far left), Little Bluestem grass, annual Periwinkle, Rudbeckia nidita, and Canada Germander. and some nicely clipped turf grass surrounding each of the gardens.


Little Bluestem, in foreground, above white creeping Vinca, the black seed heads of Rudbeckia Nidita, visible in the distance. Shock-red of Knock-out Rose.

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These above, are photos provided by Dr. Yan, taken in June after the Rudbeckia nidita had been cut back after blooming in April. She told me she would be cutting them back again, harvesting the seed and looking for yet another re-bloom in October. Great thing about nidita is it is an evergreen, a winter green for the garden, like her big sister Rudbeckia maxima, but with rich green leaves instead of blue. Maxima is a very popular garden plant in the states and in Europe and has been for a long time. Nidita (texana), grandiflora and the very late blooming subtomentosa, I think, all deserve as much fame and fanfare.


above, nice crop of Split Beard Bluestem coming on in one of the Station greenhouses.


limited but in my opinion, very significant progress with Narrow Leafed Bluestem. Dr. Yan says they are a bit difficult to grow 😦  .


above Joey Quibideaux, right, and his co-worker shifting-up the Split Beard Bluestem plants to 3 quart size pots, from four inch. Go Hammond!!!

below is a very unentertaining video of silphiums I found on I-55 on the way back from Jackson Monday, probably integrifolium. yea.

this guy on video, below, is totally wack!


Arboretum scouting trip, Chapapeela fuel effects study, successful!

This week brought two exciting events to my otherwise semi-eventful life. While Candi was doing taxes (ugghh!), I was off gallivanting around, fluttering like a butterfly from one fun project to the next. Between us, I think I ended up with the better job for sure.

On my end, two big events occurred. One was a big group that drove over from Baton Rouge to see the seed fields at our Farm. LSU’s Hilltop Arboretum Director, Peggy Coates, members of the Board of Directors, along with numerous “Friends” of the Arbo put the rubber on the road for a fact-finding visit, studying the concept of incorporating diverse native meadow gardens into the open “meadow” area in most-northern part of the Arboretum property. Well yea, cher!

The group stopped first at the LSU Hammond AgCenter Bot Garden and then hopped the state line across the Pearl River into, Mississippi for a look-see at Picayune’s Crosby Arboretum, and finally, Meadowmaker’s farm in Pearl River County’s tiny community of Henleyfield.

It was quite a group that showed. About thirty five people all together, I figure. They got to see a good bit of our place. Good thing they went to Crosby first because I am pretty sure they’d have been scratching their heads if not. And our fields aren’t managed for pretty like the Crosby is, though I happen to think they are delightfully pretty. Crosby is highly maintained and our place is quite the opposite.

Our fields are experiments basically and are mainly for study and for my own personal enjoyment. I haven’t done things to manipulate the experiments but have just watched and studied them.

And of course they are preserves for rare genetics. This really is an important baton we carry, managing these genetics. While they are each year increasingly more rare in the wild and each year further insulted by benign neglect, ignorant human intervention (Swinus americanus) or both, they are preserved at the farm. Somebody’s got their back! 🙂

Baptisias were kickin’ at the farm. We were able to see lots of hybrids of Baptisia spherocarpa, nutalli, bracteata, and alba. The yeallows were at peak and the whites were just kicking into overdrive. The seed of this Baptisa is from the Cajun Prairie site collected and planted in 1999 and 2000. It was originally seed planted from all of the remnant prairies back in the day. Variations of the species are all over the place. Just like at Eunice. We saw a nice planting of Amsonia, Blue Star, in peak bloom and a really nice meadow of phlox with its highly fragrant blossoms. The Phlox meadow is one of my best ever creations. And it was an accident.


Blue Star,  Amsonia 


Longbract Wild Indigo, Baptisian bracteata var. leucophaea 


A handful of what I call “Sideways Indigo” (B. bracteata)


my old greenhouse wood heater, and the clay and recycled glass sculpture “Ted” hanging out in the Downy Phlox, Phlox pilosa patch

There were a lot of folks to entertain and it was hard, as it always is, to point everything out. It takes a couple or a few Botanists, with that many people. But I think most people got the point.

Its function over form at Meadowmakers. I didn’t get a single photo since I was busy tryin’ to dazzle the crowd. But caught the bus’s back-end as it got up and went.


above: the Hilltop bus heads off into the sunset, after touring the farmstead.

The other big deal of the week was the fuel effects study we did with the Conservation Biology 4017 class at my awesome meadow gardens at Chapapeela Park in Hammond(Dizzy Dean famously said, “it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it”). Its a long story I wont get into it much, but basically we set up permanent study plots, 15 one meter square, to over time, study species recruitment and diversity of the planting. All this orchestrated by none of than William J. Platt, fire ecologist-Biologist, torch-bearer-extraordinaire. He intends to use these plots for studying my handywork. What a danged honor, ya’ll. whoot!IMG_3800

after the fire is lit, Jene’ calls out a temperature reading. the temps were about 200 to 300 degrees for the adolescent Little Bluestem vegetation, 500 to 700 or so degrees with equal biomass wheat straw-added, and 1000 to 1200 degrees with pine straw added. It showed in the plots after burn, with almost no debris left (scorched earth) in the pine straw plots, a little in the hay plots, and less in the control, no-addition plots. cool beans.


teaching assistant Matt Fadlyn just after one of the wheat straw-added plots was lit


after recording pre-treatment species diversity and richness. the burn is executed. A marker for a forb species in a pine straw-added plot. Next year’s class will use this data to design their hypothesis.

It was still a little wet to burn since at soil level, you could easily feel moisture. But the experiments were all burned and I will finish up the rest of the vegetation in a few weeks when the heat finally comes and the fuel finally dries. Then I’ll pick a really windy day and that will force it to burn.

After working with the students, Dr. Platt and I went to Abita Flatwoods Preserve to see his study plots there.


they had a really great burn there two weeks ago. Some areas had brown pine needles forty feet up, so that means flames were a-leapin up high, lappin’ at the tree tops!


Bill and Kimber and burnt woods. Nice. click on the photos to enlarge them, awesome.


under the fire, in the wet, the carnivorous Drosera intermedia didn’t miss a beat


its a pretty thing.

ya’ll have a good weekend