general and advanced taxonomy classes / natives featured at Oct. Hammond event


For those wanting to learn more about native plants and natural things, several events are upcoming that might be of interest. Dr. Charles Allen, one of the leading experts on native plants in the southeastern U.S. is holding a series of four fall native plant identification workshops, starting with the first, general plant ID starting tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th, in the metropolis of Pitkin, Louisiana. These are intensive two day and a half day workshops intended as brain expanding exercises in natives. I will be taking the Asteracea / Fabacea class on October 30- Sept 1st. Cannot wait!!!!

Dr. Allen, who has literally written the books on natives. see the link

Aslo worthy of a field trip is the Horticultural Field Day held on October 7th at the LSU Hammond Research Garden. Dr. Yan Chen and Dr. Allen Owings and others will be leading tours of their trial gardens once again. If you haven’t seen these gardens, and you make time to attend, I think you will agree that there is a lot to see and much to learn from a trip there, even if you can’t make it there that day. The gardens are open most every working day of the year. Bring your questions about you plants and gardens and meet these knowledgable folks.

Dr. Yan will be highlighting her work with native plants using local-sourced seed, which is really substantial and cutting-edge stuff! Go Tigers!



local seed; its a natural

Collected lots of great seed from the farm yesterday. Dreamed of doing this when I was just a wannabee, back in the day. I planted giant gardens of Narrow-leafed Mountain Mint, Rough Coneflower, Spearmint scented White Mountain Mint (Malcolm Mint), Ashy Sunflower, Tall Tickseed, and copious amounts of Lindhiemer’s and Wild Bergamot Bee Balm all those years ago at the seed farm in Mississippi. It is such a treasure-pleasure to mechanically harvest from those seed fields. I hope in time that more folks do this sort of thing. That was the goal for me, not only to make a living from locally sourced native seed  produce on seed fields on my own land but also to provide a model for others to copy before I go to the big aster garden in the sky. It has worked so far. whoop-whoop!


above, a bundle of White Leafed Mountain Mint, one that I named “Malcolm Mint” about 15 years ago, since Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, who I named it for, was the one to find it in the wild, propagate it, conserve it and pass it on. When I drive through my fields, and crush the Malcolm Mint plants with my tractor tires, the world fills with the heavenly sweet-scented aroma of Spearmint, a sensory delight, I must say.



Similar in sensory over-load is the field of Frey Prairie genes that I planted back in 2000. Loaded with Sweet Goldenrod, one of our most useful and wonderfully scented herbs, Sweet Goldenrod, sometimes called Licorice Goldenrod is so amazing in that it transports your up onto a super-sweet scented cloud high above, when you step your feet across the field. Oh, high horticulture, how I love you! Frey Prairie is now fully extirpated; gone,  plowed under into a rice field. But my seed field has its genes, and all the texture, color, scent and diversity of what Frey once was. Its a gene-pool bank of sorts. in order to plant this field, I harvested the seed from Frey, the once, most-hallowed piece of ground. above, the golden yellow pyramidal heads of Sweet Goldenrod and the purply-pink square heads of Rough Button Blazing Star are complimentary, no doubt. Meadowmakers Seed Farm, Carriere, Pearl River County, Mississippi.


Cool bean growing in the yard in Covington. It came in on its own only because I don’t mow much. This’n growing up the Agarista popufolia. A nice vine that the hummers and butterflies and I enjoy.

IMG_7911  IMG_7912

Chuck Allen says this is a Strophostyles, above

IMG_7895  IMG_7889 IMG_7894  IMG_7908

sweet video of me cleaning Geen Milkweed (below) that I roadside-rustled with Gail Barton last week. Sent my share off to entemologist Dr. Jovonn Hill at Mississippi State for a Balck Belt prairie pollinator planting project he’s doing. photos above are top left, clockwise, Green Milkweed in fruit, then in full seed, cleaned seed, and a massive plant that Gail and I were so impressed with. It was probably oder than she and I put together. It was a giant specimen with a bunch of seed, wrapped nicely on the highly flammable hair-like material that catches the wind and flies the seed off into the air. seed cleaning video uploaded onto my youtube channel.

KIDS! Try this at home!

Cardinal Rule


speaking of locally native seed. a photo above of Cardinal Flower that occurred on its own in the yard this year, a great surprise, especially since I had bought in a few plants from a nurseryman, knowing they’d been shipped from a grower out of our region. Those bought plants were chewed incessantly by rabbits, so much that they are still nubbed to the ground all summer and still are. These plants, above, I found as seedlings while I was mowing one day this spring and kept the mower blades away from them. The rabbits don’t seem to want to try these. Yet. Maybe I’ll get some seed from them….


Keep Covington Beautiful, KCB,is a group I have been working with for some time. They get stuff done, folks!


KCB’s controlled burn result of the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail park is quite obvious. In the distance, see toasty Loblolly Pines, Tallow Trees and mixed vegetation. The fire opened up the landscape magically, removing several years of fuel that had built up, hiding the herb plants from the sun. In the foreground is the future Pitcher Plant flatwoods restoration area. The park is modeled after the North Carlolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the first Arboretum in the country that established a naturally designed and managed arboretum.


above, sunlight and herbs are partners for biodiversity, on the ground at Blue Swamp Creek.

Permaculture in the Front Yard


above, in the front yard of the Covington, Loosiana hacienda, my first logs of Shiitake mushrooms are ready for the skillet. I cut Gums out of my seed farm fields in January and plugged them with shitake spore-plugs. In a frying pan with butter and garlic, they are Yum-Yum!


Granny says, “Vittles, Jethro!!”


um, Probly not.


last but not least, a vase of Candy Rain Lilly, Salvia and Sweet Coneflower for my sweetie, Sweetheart and wife, Candi, for the kitchen bar-counter. The amazing Sweet Coneflower, typically a plant found in wetter sites, was subjected two months of no rain, severe drought! and didn’t miss a beat when it came time to flower. That’s a drought with searing tempts that mostly reached 95 degrees every day, with at least one day at 104 degrees with a heat index of 120, yet it was happy as a clam in the ocean. Natives rock.





Covington Mayor okays Blue Swamp Nature Park conservation, restoration

Covington Mayor Mike Cooper took time to sit down with landscape architects Priscilla Floca, John Mayronne, and myself, Thursday, to talk about the Blue Swamp Creek Nature Trail. When we were done, the Mayor had signed off on all of our conservation and restoration plans, complete with permission to use fire for managing the fine fuel areas. This is how it should be, folks.  🙂    Mayor Mike “Cooperative” Cooper!!!

John and Priscilla, and all of the other people who work as volunteers for the group, Keep Covington Beautiful, have done a masterful job developing the park with a very light hand and a very light budget. Its just natural areas with walking trails; an interpretive garden of about three or four acres.

We layed out our goals and talked to the Mayor about the progress that’s been made so far. He asked for more details and promised to back all of our efforts 100%. Yee-ha!!

The Nature Trail was established in what was left from the design and construction of the baseball fields on that land some years ago. The forest areas are made up of an existing early to mid-succession tree canopy with a surprisingly nice collection of late succession wildflowers and native grasses as an understory. Fire will certainly do some good here. There are some wooded areas that will be permanently managed as an unburned, forested landscape. In the tree cover, there are a couple of small openings where some bog species have had enough sunlight to hold on. They’ll benefit from fire as well.


Blue Swamp Creek, located just west of the intersection of highway 190 and highway 25, Covington, Louisiana



covingyon park


Philip Drive, off of 190, leads to the Recreation Park

blue creek 2


a white-blocked-image shows the to-be-burned areas. We’ll do the controlled burn in the next few weeks, with the help of some volunteers and certified burn folks. It’ll be hot, hot with knee high, leaping flames! 🙂

The fire will bring out the best of the vegetation and we’ll see what we have in the way of species diversity and species richness this coming summer.

Eventually we’ll do some seeding and hopefully some transplanting, through organized plant rescues, in one area that had been dozed into a stormwater retention area.


a rendering of the existing forest trails in green and in yellow are the fire-generated pine prairie areas. (rendering by landscape architect Greg Trahan from last summer)

Go micro-prairies!!!





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