New Orleans Native Plant Symposium, October 11, 2013

Hi, plant folks!

Mark your calendars for a one day native plant-packed educational symposium. On October 11, 2013, at Delgado Community College, with a field trip and afternoon social event hosted at the lush atmosphere of Longue View Gardens

Doug Tallamy, Phd., will visit with us and share his wisdom. Dr. Tallamy is an entomologist, Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. He is has written the highly acclaimed book, Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Its a book that no gardener should be without. In fact, every patriotic American should read this wonderfully insightful and well written book. It will change the way you see your natural world. Doug is brilliant scientist, a much sought-after lecturer and an all-around good guy. This symposium is sure to be a great forum for learning more about designing with and using native plants. And I am so very happy to say that Dr. Tallamy is the symposium key note speaker.

There will be a stellar list of other local and regional experts who will fill three panel sessions, with the topics of native plants and their relation to water management. There will be three experts leading groups to three different native plantings in the immediate area in the afternoon, after the educational sessions.

The symposium is being hosted by Colleen Morgan and the Bayou Rebirth crew, a very active local non-profit group who will join with Delgado Community College Horticulture Department to graciously sponsor this event

click on the link for more!

Hope to see you there!



Golden Club

A good way to attract wildlife to your backyard is to provide a source of water. I have seen many different ways to go about this over the years. A friend of mine, a bird enthusiast, installed a tiny micro-mister, up high, so the birds can bathe and drink.

Water, dripping from a tiny tube, one drop at a time is also great way to provide birds and other wildlife access to a drink and for you to view them doing the drinking. A water garden or frog pond can be useful for this purpose, too. A simple pool of water designed into the landscape can be managed easily by creating an ecologically balanced aquatic garden, using carefully chosen plants.

Along with the attracting birds, a water garden brings in a lot of other critters. Typically, in a very short time after completing the pool construction and topping it off with water, frogs arrive. And so the natural process begins.

Water gardens give you the opportunity to grow plants that you couldn’t grow in your garden otherwise. That brings us to the plant, Golden Club (Orontium aquaticum), a most beautiful and unusual marginal aquatic plant.

Golden club is a short thing, getting only about a foot or two tall (mostly, it gets wide). In nature, its only found in water, typically moving water.

As I know the plant, it occurs at the beginnings of streams, where seeps (springs) occur and where water starts to pool and run, ever-so-slightly. It is loosely associated with the Hammock or Baygall and hillside bog plant community(Charles Allen says “wetter baygalls”. Baygall, being a uniquely coastal plant association dominant in Gallberry Holly, Sweet Bay, Red Bay, etc usually in a wet bog acid soil). When I have found the plant its usually in shade, but when the tree canopy is removed, it does just fine as long as the water’s there. It is quite an adaptable plant and worthy of more use since its so easy to propagate and grow. It will be happy growing in a pot as long as the roots are fully submerged in water.

The image that most impressed me of Golden Club is one I saw many years ago at a client’s property in Pearl River County, Mississippi. Water oozed out of a hillside peat bog from several obvious seep areas where the bottom of two hills met. The seep water collected and trickled over and down, spilling into tiny pools, from one small pool to the next. The pools were of various shapes and sizes, bound on the downslope side by the gnarled roots of a grouping of very tall Sweet Bay Magnolia trees (Magnolia Virginiana). There was Golden Club scattered here and there, stepping down the hillside pools. This  idyllically primitive image has become etched clearly in my mind.

Richie Bell in the Vascular Flora/ Carolinas says Golden Club is found in “bogs and acid streams”. He has it distributed in the coastal and Piedmont areas mostly but also in some counties in the Blue Ridge-Smokey Mountains in western North and South Carolina.

Orontium has medium to large textured leaves of a blueish purple cast and they repel water, so when it rains, the water drops roll right off of the leaves in fast-moving beads.

The flowers of Golden Club are where the plant gets its common name. In spring, elongated erect green spadix “clubs” emerge and then turn white, topped with golden yellow “torches”.

(click to enlarge photo)


When the flowers are finished, the rounded pea-sized seeds develop and weigh the stalk over into the water where it conveniently stays very wet and where after ripe, the seed are finally released into the water, where with any luck, they’ll float to a nearby sandbar.

The seeds are easy to collect and very easy to grow. Just place seeds on the soil at the water’s edge where they’ll root and grow. Or place a pot of soil in a garden pond so that the soil is just above the water’s surface. This makes for an ideal growing situation for the plant. There’s a link at the end of this post and see the author of the article just throwing seed into the water of his aquatic garden to get them started. They float for months until they loose their viability and sink or until they via wind or current, reach viable ground.

I use 15 gallon pots emerged in a concrete frog pond in the back yard to propagate little baby Golden Clubs. I like to grow them because I believe you can never have too much of this wonderful plant.

(click on photos to enlarge)



above: seedlings of Golden Club propagated in early summer in the backyard frog pond in a 25 gallon pot, growing at the base of its first cousin, Green Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica). These are two of my favorite garden plants.


above: Golden Club “going to seed”


above: the leaves are oval and pointed and always pretty


Its interesting: the regional and national distribution of this plant. It has only been found in one county in Texas (Polk County, east Texas), its most western range, and in two Parishes in west Louisiana (Cameron Parish, which seemed really odd to me (I asked Charles Allen and he said “it is not in acid soil in Cameron Parish, is out of place there”)and Beauregard Parish, but doesn’t extend north into Kisatchie National Forest. Hmm). Its also found in the eastern five of the eight Florida Parishes, north of Lake Ponchartrain, but most unusual to me is that its listed for Orleans Parish, which I know is mostly river soils. I didn’t look at the location of the record but I suspect this was found near the far eastern edge of the parish where you’ll find some northshore plants that have made it across to the south end of the lake. Golden Club’s most northern reach in the U.S. is all the way to Onondaga County New York, only one county over from Lake Erie where winters get down-right frigid. Its found in all states east of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, all the way up to Plymouth County, Massachusetts, home to Cape Cod, but its considered rare and threatened in that state.


Above: range of distribution of Golden Club, courtesy USDA plants database

Parts of the Orontium plant are edible but contain calcium oxalate crystals. One author says of the crystals, “This is toxic and if consumed. Makes the mouth and digestive system feel as though hundreds of tiny needles are being stuck into it”. yummy!  Native Americans cooked or dried the seeds and rhizome (root) for grinding into flour for making a type of bread. Charles Allen, in his Edible Plants of the Gulf South, says ” The seeds must be soaked and/ or boiled to remove the acrid taste to be edible. The taste is reported to be like peas.”

The book Food Plants of the North American Indians, written by Elias Yanovsky, a chemist at the Carbohydrate Research Division, USDA, 1936, states “Rootstocks and seeds used in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; repeated boiling and roasting to remove acrid taste”.

…………..good day, ya’ll!

build it and they will come.

It took years for Blazing star(Liatris) to really get going in my seed meadow gardens. For years I saw no sign of the plant but lately I’ve noticed not only many of them but lots of butterflies and skippers feeding on them. I was at the farm yesterday doing insect survey work for a couple of hours and there were hundreds butterflies flittering back and forth through the field: sulfurs, fritillaries, a few species of swallowtails and several species of skippers, all sporting big grins. It was pretty distracting actually since I am all enamored with them and would stop and photograph occasionally. There were lots of species of bees and wasps and other assorted nectar fans. And there were predators, waiting in the flowers for a meaty delight to come fluttering along. I will never for get how I saw once, a butterfly gracefully flying from flowers to flower and then he began acting kind of oddly as it landed on a nearby flower. On closer inspection, I found a praying mantis devouring that sucker like it was a barbecued rib! yum yum! creepy, actually.

Most people don’t realize how very little vegetation is left to support these specialized critters. Most of the “wild” areas that you think are “wild” maybe be so, but the species diversity is most often on a level that would be considered poor to awful, and support very little wildlife diversity. We humans(some of us) are just getting the fact that, despite biologists talking and writing about it for nearly 100 years, our natural areas are in dire need of our help.

I saw a recent presentation by local author Charlotte Seidenberg at the Longue View House and Gardens and she quoted Mark Plotkin, the famous ethnobotanist and ecologist and native New Orleanian, who said “Conservation is not just about protecting exotic species in distant national parks–it should begin in our backyard.” Charlotte’s book on this subject is a wonderful piece of work(off the chain, as the youngsters say) and one that applies specifically to Louisiana and the immediate central gulf coastal rim. check it out…”The Wildlife Garden: Planning Backyard Habitats”.

(click on photos to enlarge)


above: swallowtail butterfly nectaring on blazing star at Meadowmakers Farm, Pearl River County, Mississippi

We ecologists are slowly making some headway in bringing-awareness in this department. Over the years, I have seen people find interest and enjoyment in the “wild things”, and that is encouraging.

What’s particularly encouraging for me is the interest that folks have in restoring the complex systems of habitat that once were, on properties big and small. This subject has been a passion of mine for many of years, as it is for a whole slew of folks that have guided and helped me in my work and in building my business.


above: many folks showed up for the filed trip at the Farm this past May 4. It was a combined trip with the Louisiana and Mississippi Native Plant Societies. click on photo to enlarge.  photo by Dr. Tammy Greer

Dr. Charles Allen showed up for the field day and was kind enough to lead us through the fields, interpreting what he saw. People and critters came from near and far to make the proverbial scene.


above: one happy upside down nectar-sucking bee on antelope horn milkweed, at the Farm