Crosby and Kisatchie Bog-Baygall trips, May 16th/Lipkin Hill Botanical Area-Old River WMA trip a near-complete success!!

Dr. Wayne Morris will lead a group of wild plant enthusiasts on a field trip to the Crosby Hillside bog and to the Steep Hollow natural area. As far as I know, this is the first trip Crosby has offered the trip to the Steep Hollow site, a place I have wanted to see for many years. Should be a great day, with many folks filling the pews. Be a part of this fun and informative field day. Turn off the computer and TV and get some nature in, ya’ll.

25th Annual Bog and Baygalls Field Trips with Dr. Charles Allen

For 25 years, folks have been meeting for the Bogs and Baygalls event in Kisatchie National Forest. For the last 15 years, this event has been based at the home of Charles and Sue Allen, who live on a property that joins Kisatchie, with the Ouskachitto River in their backyard.

Charles has worked for many years building and managing gardens focused on butterfly attraction. Charles is one of the the leading authorities on Bogs and Baygalls and he has been involved in this fun weekend of events since its started with the help of the late Robert Murray.

I haven’t decided which of these bog events I will attend, but I’m sure they will both be well attended and will be fun-filled days.

Old River WMA Lipkin Hill Botanical Area trip was a success!

We met for the annual field trip at my prairie seed farm Saturday. It was a light crowd, smaller than usual but we were also getting predictions of 60% rain for the day. As it turned out, we finished the four hour event with perfect weather, just as the rain began to come down.


You know you’re getting close to Lipkin Hill when you start seeing the Indian Pinks,  Spigelia marilandica,in the leaf litter, above, and Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia.

We missed the Native Camellia, Stewartia malacodendron, in flower, by a day, or maybe a couple of days. Two years ago, when we made the trip last, we were a single day late, finding only clusters of stamens on the plants, and petals of the spent flowers on the ground. A rain had come the night before and beaten the flowers off.


a tight bud of Native Camellia, a giant at fifteen feet tall and wide. The only blooms that occur are way up high where the branches reach for precious sunlight. A thick canopy of old growth trees covers this north facing slope of this River bluff


above, a baby Stewartia, a foot or so tall, may be as old as twenty or forty years.

I have been going to Lipkin Hill since 1983. The Stewartias look the same as the first time I saw them. These are ancient plants. My good friend, Dorothy “Dot” Burge, who lived only 500 yards from Lipkin hill since 1945, said that they have stayed the same since she first saw the in the late 1940’s. No telling how old these plants are.


above, an old Magnolia grandiflora with old native Vitus, muscadine vine, lovingly attached.  Rick and his wife Susan were, at one point, only thirty or so feet away and I could barely make them out, the woods are so dense there.


above, here everything reaches upwardly. Rick Webb found the prize du jour, the Pyramid Magnolia in bloom. Here he bends the branch over for this photo of heaven right here on Earth. The flower’s about a foot across in size.

To get to Lipkin Hill, we walked a mile or so into the woods until suddenly the trail drops dramatically off the bluff, into the Pearl backwater.


above, looking west into the beautiful Pearl River backwater, standing on the old logging rail spur bed that was cut into the slope, you see a fine second growth of buttressed Cypress-Tupelo-Water Hickory bottomland forest. In summer, when the floodwaters recede, the backwater ground plain fills becomes a mud-flat filled with White Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias perennis, and Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.


Looking up the trunk of one of the many fifty foot tall Cowcumber Magnolia trees, Magnolia Macrophylla, that fill this west-facing slope of Lipkin. Susan Webb pointed out giant flower petals on the ground that had fallen from the sun filled tops of the Cowcumbers.

Photos of the Week

Coreopsis nudata, found in only one Parish in Louisiana, St. Tammany, on a highway in the south part of the parish, in a pine flat.

IMG_2906 IMG_2909

This Coreopsis is an obligate wetland species, not common in the landscape, especially here at the very western edge of its distribution range. click to enlarge photos.



La. Native Plant Society workshop, Native Grass Identification Class, and other upcoming wild-thing events

September and October are shaping up to be two months filled with enticing educational native plant activities for folks in the Pelican State.

Tops on the list for me are the Ouida Home and Garden tour and workshop in St Francisville (September 21), The Allen Acres Butterfly Blast (September 23, 24,and 25), and the Native Grass, Sedges and Rushes Identification class in the Pitkin, Louisiana metropolitan area (October 7, 8 and 9).

The Ouida tour is a joint meeting of the Louisiana Native Plant Society and the Capitol Area Native Plant Society. It will include a behind-the-scenes perspective on native plantings at the wonderful old 1880’s home of Dave and Tracey Banowetz just outside of St. Francisville. If you haven’t been to St, Francisville, you should, at some point, make it there since it is, in my opinion, one of the most picturesque towns in the state. And St. Francisville is only a stone’s throw away from Clark Creek State Park (just north across the Mississippi border), one of the most unique natural areas in the region. Get off that couch and take a kid or two with you when you go.



above: my friend, the late Steven Strong, at the Asteriod meeting, 2011, in front of one of the many unusual natural features at Clark Creek State Park in southwestern Mississippi

On hand will be home-grown native plant experts who will guide the attendees through the wild and a native prairie gardens at Ouida. John Mayronne of Covington, a pioneer of the native plant movement in the southeast and a nationally recognized garden designer/ landscape architect, along with Rick Webb of Amite, cutting-edge native plant nurseryman and rare plant grower, will lead a tour of the gardens that have been established over the last ten years by Dave and Tracey. Dr. Charles Allen of Pitkin, renown author, biologist, and pyrogenic genius, along with little old me (the Prairie Dog), will lead a tour of the Banowetz’s natue-themed prairie gardens. I am sure you’ll enjoy experiencing this Bluestem grass-dominated wildscape. It’s the bomb!

I was able, during my visit to St Francisville last October, to finally get to see these gardens for the first time, through Dave and Tracey’s eyes. They have been purchasing a few pounds of seed every year or two using seed collected from the uber-cool Cajun Prairie Society’s Restoration Project in Eunice,   (….seed provided by yours truly, wuf-wuff!!!). 🙂 Come mingle with experts and novices alike, and take a gander at how these gardens have evolved over the years. It should be a good day, time well-spent.

The Allen Acres Butterfly Blast is a Charles Allen annual event that focuses on plants that attract butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden. Charles has worked for years to establish a wonderful series of plant-driven gardens specifically geared toward butterfly attraction. If you haven’t seen the gardens and heard them interpreted by Charles, make time to attend. You can rent a room from his B and B or camp-out on the Allen property which is quite unique. The property adjoins the Vernon Unit of Kisatchie National Forest. From the gardens, take a five minute hike on foot to the west to see the pristine Ouiska Chitto River. Charles usually leads trips at night to see lightning bugs and puts out an apparatus at night to attract and identify night-flying insects. Kids and adults (older kids) like these natural added attractions.

And last but not least, for those of you interested in the obscure science of grasses and grass-like plants, Dr. Allen will hold an ever-popular Grasses, Rushes and Sedges identification workshop at Allen Acres. I did this several years ago and will be there for it again this year to discover the secrets of gardening with these exceptionally wonderful and useful plants.

For details of these and other cool educational events, check out the Native Plant Society’s calendar at…

Louisiana Native Plant Society
Capital Area Native Plant Society
September Field Trip
Where:  Ouida Plantation (North of St. Francisville in the Tunica Hills)
When:  Saturday, September 20, 2014
8:30 a.m. until….
8:30 a.m. – Wander the gardens and woods at your leisure
10:00 a.m. – “Landscaping With Native Plants”
A garden walk led by John Mayronne and Rick Webb
12:00 – Lunch
 Lunch fixings provided; bring your own beverage of choice.
1:30 p.m. – “Turn Your Pasture Into A Prairie”
Tour a demonstration prairie with Charles Allen and Marc Pastorek

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


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


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


above: a dwarf gene was prominent in this Cyrilla seedling


a nice red-foliaged Leatherwood…


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


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)


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


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


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

Louisiana Growers availability list

Click to access avlapr14.pdf









Caroline Dorman’s homeplace

I visited Briarwood today, the Caroline Dorman Nature Preserve. I’m still walking on air.

If you haven’t been there before, I feel for you. What have you been doing with yourself, anyway?

Richard Johnson met me at the Visitor’s Center upon my arrival. Jesse Johnson, Richard’s wife, joined us shortly and we sat for some time catching up, sitting in chairs in front of a good, hot fire.


Richard and Jesse have been curators of the CD Nature Preserve for over forty years. The fire they’d built was in a wonderful art-piece-of-a-fireplace, originally built by a local craftsman, in 1916. The chimney itself is an achievement. Richard told me the story of the original house having fallen into complete disrepair when he came onto the scene and he proceeded to separate the old building from the brick edifice all those years ago, and lovingly built a new structure geared toward guests gathered around these double sided hearths.

We caught up on conversation enough and then decided to bolt via golf cart to the woods! But before we did, we short-detoured to the garden at the edge of the building where Jesse re-introduced me my old friend Daphne. Daphne, the flowering shrub, that is, full in bloom, as usual, in the dead of winter. And I met her cousin, too.


Daphne odora, Fragrant Daphne, is typically pink-ish in color and particularly delightful to the nose.


the all-white cultivar of Daphne, available for our enjoyment, too. So sweet!


…and there was this area, clearly designated by pine knots, but subtle in form, a smattering of an Ericaceaous and highly edible blueberry family member procured many years ago somewhere in Tennessee by this nurturing couple. When I crushed the leaf between my fingers, it was a strong scent of cooling-breezy-wintergreen. Then I tasted it. It tasted just like a wintergreen Lifesavers-brand candy. It was delicious! Jesse told me that Dr. Dale Thomas(the botanist) told her that he had once made a meal of these in the field. I can understand why! YumYum!

In just a few minutes in the golf cart, we were pulling up to the Bay Garden, unloading ourselves from the cart to mosey around. The Bay Garden was begun around 1930, Jesse said, when Miss Caroline decided that this seep-bog area would be a perfect place to experiment with Louisiana Iris and bog-loving native plants. A significant part of the history of Louisiana iris entering into the world of horticulture happened at this spot all those years ago. Ms. Dorman was one of the most vocal promoters of the Louisiana Iris and of Louisiana wild things and wild areas. And her Bay Garden is the central nervous system of historic horticultural prestige when it comes to wild things in this region. You aught to see it the first week April, ya’ll. Its a marvelous thing.


hundreds of iris, well out of dormancy, many wonderful cultivars collected and grown with tender loving care. Richard created walkways from large, old belts once used on steam engines, to run mechanical equipment.


This collection of iris has been curated for over 80 years, in this spot. …in Ms. Carrie’s Bay Garden.


Mr. Johnson grew up near Briarwood and worked around the property as a young child for Ms. Carrie. His stories are enchanting and other-worldly.


Smooth Phlox Phlox glabbarima, Jesse says, is kind of weedy in the garden. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing when it comes to this plant.


Frogbelly Pitcher Plant Sarracinia purpurea in the pitcher plant area of the Bay Garden. Jesse told me that the different species they had introduced had created many unusual hybrids


“Little Marie” Iris virginica new growth provides a bi-color foliage show way-before flowers spikes start.



Jesse’s wheelbarrow in the Bay Garden makes for a good glove holder. Those gloves should be bronzed one day.


Richard kindly took time to show me what I would have missed otherwise: a really robust Black Gum with bark that resembled shingles on a house. This is a really big and beautiful gum. There is so much to see all around that its hard to brain filter.


Dog toothed Violet pokes itself through leaves on the forest floor as it emerges from winter slumber


We stopped at the frog pond where Mrs. Jesse looked for and found, submerged underwater, salamander eggs


there were two different species incubating there. She reached in and pulled out a clump of the salamander “gel”. The little babies were inside, resting comfortably.


Another species was in much smaller “containers”. This one was about an inch around and in it, the little babies were much more visible They were all wiggley. It was a good day had by all, even the reptiles, I think.


What is so amazing about Briarwood is that a demure but very determined woman planted so many wonderful plants so many years ago. You can now, because of her hard work and persistence, see hundreds of absolutely breathtaking specimens of native and non-native plants. Most certainly the best place to gain a perspective of what plants do after eighty or more years in the ground in this neck of the woods. In 1925, Ms Carrie had the pond near the house built. Of course she planted it up! The pond was but a palette by which to paint a beautiful picture. We stopped to relax and behold her artistry. I had to step back in order to fully take in and comprehend the Cliftonias within the composition. I had not seen any in the wild as big as these. As we completed our tour, we made our way back to the Visitor’s Center, we drove past the old Grandad Long Leaf pine, the biggest one on the property. I asked how old it might be and Richard told me maybe 350 years but that Ms. Carrie would never let anyone core it to count the rings, to reveal its age. “She said it wasn’t any of our business”, he quipped.

…………….get out into the woods, ya’ll……..