raking seed, breaking ground, getting down

Many groundbreaking events this past two weeks or so with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completing their planting work for the globally threatened Mississippi Gopher frog conservation-breeding ponds at Drakes Bayou Wildlife Management Area in Vancleave, Mississippi.  They used our flatwoods and bog seed mixes for south Mississippi. This fine vegetation should make for some frisky frogs.


the Corps’ seed check was in the mail!!! whootwhoot!


the frog pond planting at Drake’s Creek, all done. photo by Timothy A. Brooks

On a trip up to Union Parish to see a project site, dropped in and brought seed to Dr. Kevin McKone at Copiah-Lincoln Community College for their campus planting. Dr. McKone was a delight to work with throughout the last several months. He organized all of the prep work for the site since early summer and a group of students got the planting done on October 24th. This is a herbaceous pine understory planting that is part of a walking trail through the Co-Lin campus, as it’s known. The prairie project was inspired by Brady Dunaway, a student with a strong interest in biology. He found out about our seed-prairie work through the Crosby Arboretum, and the rest is history. Brady is a powerful dude, a force.


above, the pine prairie area at Copiah-Lincoln County Community College, Wesson, Mississippi, before planting


Brady Dunaway discusses the seed and planting process with his fellow student prairieists. photos by Kevin McKone


Getting the hay coverage just right


Team Green!!

Seed Collection Window Closes

I collected seed like a bandit over the last few weeks, working around our crazy rainy weather. So far I have been graced with a lot of luck and all the seed collections have been successful. We have some great seed for projects so get busy prepping your prairie site. Time’s a waistin’!

Got probably the last collections of the year in yesterday before the next-predicted four day rain comes, Monday through Thursday next week. ick.

long-awaited Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area seed collecting day!

Made major steps this week for the planting-to-be made at the City of Covington’s Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail plantings. My good friend and partner-in-crime Jim McGee worked with me at the Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area near Wilmer, Louisiana, Tangipahoa Parish, on Thursday where we collected some amazingly wonderful seed from their way cool prairie land. We spent the whole day working under the supervision of Wade Fitzsimons, an agent with the WMA. He helped us stay out of trouble. We spent eight hours roaming around the woods. Jim navigated the machine and I walked all day ahead of him watching for Gopher Turtles and Gopher Turtle holes and keeping Jim from busting up our fancy machine on a stump or whatnot. I got a workout for sure. Eight hours is a lot of prairie tramping.


Jim McGee coasts along through the magical pinelands at Sandy Hollow, above


Aster concolor, one of the last things to bloom


Elliot’s Bluestem grass is very distinctive, unique, with it’s elongated inflated sheaths that wrap around the clusters of seed


cool, silvery white heads of Split-Beard Bluestem grass


Liatris squarosa in fruit.  Along with numerous other nectar-butterfly plants were collected Liatris spicata, L. squarosa, and L. squarrulosa in the fields of Sandy Hollow.


La FWS’s Wade Fitzsimons with the mother lode of Sandy Hollow seed.


above, the planting area at Blue Creek, where the seed will soon be planted.

It was a long time a’coming, getting into get seed from Sandy Hollow. I have been working access for over a year now, finally getting the go ahead from the La. Wildlife and Fisheries’ Steve Smith, who works in the Habitat Stewardship Section, overseeing research projects such as Blue Swamp Creek’s. They don’t just let you in the WM areas with a machine without a good reason and one that has to do with the non-commercial side of things. So Jim and I volunteered our day for the sake of establishing cool vegetation at Blue Swamp.

What a pleasure working in such a pristine place such as this is. Its an honor. And a duty. A thrill!!!

PH does Tallow eradication at the 25 year-old LSU Eunice Prairie, Eunice, Louisiana, St. Landry Parish


Dr. Maloclm F. Vidrine, co-initiator of the LSUE Cajun Prairie, gave me a tour prior to me doing the work there.


A prairie garden is a great addition to college campuses with all their acres mowed turf. click on the pic to see Mac way in the distance.


click on the photo to see the LSUE prairie strip


Take the campus of the M.D. Anderson Medical Center in Houston, for instance, with its native prairie landscape and butterfly gardens, one I had a very minor part in consulting on. It is a wondrously vast natural garden with real substance and structure; an island of biodiversity in an otherwise very stale and boring cityscape. click to enlarge the photos

BIOL-ENTM 4017 Class Flyer.001

Dr, Vidrine’s book, The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History to be used for this spring’s Bio-Ent 4017 Lab class held at Bluebonnet Swamp, Baton Rouge and at Chappapeela Park, Hammond, with Dr. Bill Platt. Dr. Vidrine may visit with the class this year to talk about his prairie work.








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!!!!


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.


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!


prescription, certified and notorized!


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.


it was toasty out there, folks!


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


Tangi’s Bot Garden

In the Parish of Tangipahoa, there aren’t big cities. Its small town, mostly: country folks and Pine trees.

Its a beautifully green Parish with fresh-water marsh on the southern end at Lake Ponchartrain and the rest is mostly whispering pine flats, rolling hills, and the shaded bottomland of its waterways. The greenest spot in all of the the Parish though, may be the Hammond Horticultural Research Station, just 5 minutes north of Interstate-12.


Tangi is part of what the locals still call the Florida Parishes. Map circa 1767

The LSU AgCenter has an extensive collection of ornamental trial gardens here, along with numerous research and experimental/trial gardens.  It used to be an experiment station for truck crops but the focus these days is on ornamental horticulture. On my first visit to the Station, I had a great meeting with Dr. Yan Chen, Dr. Allen Owings and hort technician Gina Hebert. I was there to discuss with them their interest in adding native grasses and wildflowers to the gardens. Since then, they have taken a keen interest in natives and I have taken a keen interest in their beautifully maintained gardens.  (click on the photos to enlarge)




above: many acres of “island” gardens exist for your enjoyment, at the Southeast Louisiana Research Station

Dr. Owings and Dr. Chen have begun the process of designing new demonstration gardens, where they will trial the usefulness of some of the states best high conservatism native perennials. I have made it my focus lately to collect the rarest and best seeds for them. They’ve begun propagation some and will continue through the winter and spring. At some point early next summer, we’ll possibly get together and dig root divisions of different species and cultivars of native grasses from my seed fields in Mississippi so that they can “grow them out”, in their ultra-sleek nursery facility. We have some time to prepare garden beds and meadow areas since the majority of plantings will be made in November of 2014. In the meadow areas, weed competition will be eradicated by repeated treatments prior to planting and this leaves lots of time to produce enough plants to fill the gardens when the time comes to plant.

If you get a chance, you should visit one day. It may be the north-shore’s best-kept secret.

This week on Thursday is an open house-field day event which should be fun and entertaining with plenty of folks to network and talk about plants with. A visit then will be especially good since we just got our first taste of dry, fall weather!

All across the several-acre Station site, you’ll find gardens with many combinations of color and form and textures: ones that will delight your eyes. A wonderful collection of native trees has been established over the years by Dr. Paul Orr, and of course there’s the Margie Jenkins Azalea collection garden which is full many significant plants. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I hadn’t been here before my recent comings and goings but I guess it was about time I had arrived. I hope to see you there Thursday!


click photo to enlarge.