will work for prairie!

Lots of fab stuff happening at the Ponderosa ..and beyond…

Processed precious seed Monday that I gathered from our family farm in Pearl River County, Mississippi. A righteous collection it was, on a beautiful September Sunday afternoon. Below, an old proverb says, a bird in hand is better than three or more in the bush, or something like that.


the main focus of the effort was to get a bunch of Monarda fistulosa and Monarda lindhiemerii seed, the large rounded seed head in the middle. This field has acres of the stuff, and fills the fields full of pink and white when they’re in bloom. The white seed heads, above, at bottom-left, are of the fragrantly aromatic White-Leafed Mountain Mint, a favorite plant of mine. At ten o’clock, tucked between my index and middle finger is a tiny cluster of grey-ish seed heads of the illustrious Narrow-Leafed Mountain Mint. At eleven o’clock is the elongated head of the distinctly Coastal Prairie species Rudbeckia texana (nitida). At high noon is the demure but mui grande, Rudbeckia grandiflora, and, next to that, Rudbeckia hirta, which is next to Ashy Sunflower, at 3 o’clock. All of these are needed in adding to seed mixes, when applicable. And all are originally from the dozen or so, Cajun Prairie remnants, found and preserved by Dr. Mac Vidrine and Dr. Chuck Allen and the other Cajun Prairie pioneers-volunteers, way back when. Go micro-prairies!


Go west, old man…

Loaded up the trailer with the home-made superlative spray rig onto the back of the Kubota for a trip west to do some Tallow-whacking. Spent a grand mid-morning with my soil-loving bud, King of the Cajun Calm, Jim Foret, who has, just recently, pulled off a regular coup by getting permission to develop a three acre prairie garden at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, Cade Farm. Additionally, Professor (Generalissimo Jim) Foret and Cade Farm manager, Mark Simon, will prepare for and plant a demonstration garden of native-gene Switch grass, about two acres. They already have a two or three acre planting of Switch grass, but it is Alamo Switch, which is a cultivar with genes from up above the north Texas line somewhere. eeww!!!!!

The UL planting with be research based and all native; local genes.


Cajun Prairie Restoration site work, Eunice, Louisiana; Woody-plant slaughter! Oh, the humanity!!!

Did a day of spraying Tallows and other woody plants in the afternoon on Wednesday at the Cajun Prairie Habitat Restoration site in Eunice. I think I got a good dent done there. It was so fun. Hooray for mechanical equipment!!!!


Hangin’ out in Hackberry

Headed to Hackberry, Louisiana for Thursday morning, where I met and worked with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries folks, Louisiana Natural Heritage field botanists Chris Reid, Chris Doffitt and Sairah Jared at a very cool and mostly flat piece of ground on a private ranch, where only the hippest and happiest cows dine. Our objective was to accomplish an unforgiving slaughter of Chinese Tallow trees on what is a very large and biologically significant Coastal Prairie remnant. Chris says that this is one of the most promising of the restores he is working with in terms of the private land owners being open to the idea of restoring native prairie and going all-in on what is real, live, native prairie, complete with mounds. It was like walking on air out there; levitation. Okay, actually, it was like walking on air in a very hot open-air baking-oven; I felt kinda like a thanksgiving turkey. But other than it being a wee warm, it was very enlightening to see yet another one of these treasures, a landscape-scale coastal prairie remnant. This is third I have been invited to in the last year. Whoop-whoop!

Hackberry, is one of many places in Louisiana where the world ends, basically.

You can’t easily get there from here, as the old saying goes.


We met at Brown’s grocery Store, where you can get Hackberry House Slippers (shrimping boots) (sometimes called Delcambre Nikes) in three different colors; the typical white, green-camo and pink-camo. Yea! Take that, Rodeo Drive!

I drove behind Chris Reid, who knew the trail to the prairie ranch site.


miles and miles we went, across the idyllic fresh water marshes and this, a man-made road through Black Lake.


it was pretty, ya’ll.


…we went, and went and went, westwardly…. and then we went some more…


We finally arrived at the ranch. Nice Mima mounds were scattered in the grazed-mowed fields, before we reached our final destination.


you can see to the left of Ms. Brahma, a four foot tall Mima mound. Pretty things, both.

I was there to share the technique I have been working on, for killing Tallow trees, which are a problematic plant when it comes to restoring prairie. We were using a brand-name of herbicide called Clearcast. Last year I painted some full-strength Clearcast onto some Tallows with a paint brush, in the yard here in Covington. The stuff out-right killed the Tallows, dead as a door nail, no root sprouts at all, ya’ll. We have been using Clearcast at the restorations in Eunice because it is deadly as a foliar spray and mostly selective to Tallow, but the full strength basal application is a new approach with promise. whooo-hooo! Herbicides rock!!!! get some!

Chris Reid was interested in trying the technique, and so I did an application and safety demo. I got them all instructed and off they went into the Tallow groves on-foot. Instead of a paint brush, they used a back pack sprayer with Clearcast and a crop oil for extra penetrating-ability. Then I saddled up the Kubota for some mechanical spray acrobatics-aerobics. Its all in the wrist, ya’ll.


mixing the backpacks with stuff. photo by Sairah Jared

I think we did some real good. Got ‘er done! You can get a feel for the landscape we were working in on the south end of the 110 acre site by looking at my you-tube video link, below. I was foliar spraying, gunning for Chinese Tallow. You’ll see the Tallows in green in the field edges and lots of four-foot-tall Hibiscus lasiocarpa, a fuzzy leafed, bold herb, odd and grey as it’s leaves are. Its common on the Mima mound prairie landscapes I’ve seen in southwestern Loosianner.



after we worked, we took a pleasure ride to the north end of the prairie restoration area where its open. Chris Reid said that this north side is the higher end of the field and so there was not as much woody plant encroachment. What a treat, indeedy!


Here, a nice specimen of Ovate Leafed Cacalia, a beautiful, tall-growing perennial that pollinators seem to relish, in the mix with Little Bluestem grass and the tiny bright yellow sparkles of Soft Golden Aster, on a sweet treeless mound.


holding a panicle of Sporobolus pyramidatus, Whorled Dropseed grass, in a bare saline area near a pimple mound, my first time seeing this. you can make out a better image of the seed head- one is laying over at the very top of the image against darker color in the frame, very skeletal


Narrow Leafed Bluestem, a Coastal Prairie and Long Leaf Pine understory endemic just up a foot or so from the base of a mound.


The Mima mounds are plentiful here, and generally uniform, showing up in this image as green vegetation. “The woody plants are generally up on the mounds” Chris said. Here, a ten foot Tallow tree plays King of the Mountain. However, if Chris has his way, it won’t be king for long.


…this mound, a four footer, seen here behind the group, was topped with Indain grass and Little Bluestem and had many Liatris acidota, Sharp Blazing Stars, just finished blooming, wrapping around the base of the mound. The mounds are wonderful little gardens with fantastical arrangements of flowering plants and grasses, taking advantage of the gradient with high and dry plants up top, wetter loving plants at the base and a mix between, all native. From left to right, Sairah Jared, Chris Doffet, center, and Chris Reid, on the right. Botonia asteroides/ difusa is the white and Flat-topped Golderod is the yellow in the foreground.

hackberry farm place

the farm house area in Google-earth, with mowed and grazed Mima mounds, click on the photo to enlarge

Hackberry prairie

the prairie field of a little over 100 acres, and the trees, in green, we were working on

hackberry south

Just south of the farmhouse = cool landscape


Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area trip

Took a quick trip yesterday to scope out a seed collecting prospect, at Sandy Hollow Wildlife Management Area. I’d been wanting to see the site for a few years or more. It was worth the time spent. Sandy Holler is a great natural Pine prairie site with really significant herbaceous vegetation, with not-particularly-significant woodlands.


Big Bluestem grass is plentiful at Sandy Hollow, seen here in front of the blue pick-up. Its fairly rare to find it in Tangipahoa Parish. You can certainly get an idea of what vegetation looked like in the Parish by seeing this Pine prairie remnant.


They don’t call it Sandy Hollow for nuthin’. Its sandy there. Bush Mint, a cool plant, yea, growing in a more dry condition than normal.


Liatris sqarrulosa, Southern Blazing Star or Red-neck Blazing Star


This particular seedling of Southern Blazing Star had really dark purple colored bracts, and stood out among the others as superior in form. Really nice.


I saw lots of Swallow Tails out there. This one, I think, a Giant Swallow Tail, but there were some Spice Bush Swallow Tails a’nectarin’, too. Some happy, smiling butterflies a-flutterin’ around in the sun.


Louisiana Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects – Built Environment – Merit Award – goes Repentance Park Landscape Architecture design team – Go Micro-prairies!!!!

Repentance Park, Located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Landscape Architect:  Reich Associates

Pastorek Habitats, LLC consulted on the Indian grass slope meadows at Repentance Park, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We also provided the seed for, and contracted the growing of the 3500 Indian grass plants (thanks Gail Barton!) planted as a natural meadow garden. We worked through Reed Hilderbrand, Cambridge, Mass., who, with subconsultants Reich and Associates, and Suzanne Turner Associates, of Baton Rouge, collaborated to provide construction documents and planting and management strategies for this steeply-sloped garden at the City Hall/ Old State Capitol/ Convention Center area. Other collaborators were the City of Baton Rouge and the landscape construction contractor, George Francise Landscapes.

LEED Project Army National Guard facility in Franklinton, Louisiana contract ink is dry!!!!!!

We will start on the preparation for construction of natural meadow-prairie grass areas at the Franklinton Readiness Center, a National Guard construction project, with the first herbicide application planned for this week. We are the designers of the meadow areas, in collaboration with Dufreche-Perkins Landscape Architecture. Go Army!

THIS JUST IN!!! HITCHMOUGH VIDEO OF PRESENTATION AT LSU, APRIL, 2015!!! Thanks, Landscape Architecture Prof. Wes Michaels!  and thanks Dr. Hitchmough!



a recipe for raising pepper and salt skippers

I dropped by the Repentance Park project in Baton Rouge yesterday on my way back from prairie work in Eunice. It turned out to be yet another highlight of my four day trip. The Indian grass that was planted in December as plants that barely had barely any substance, have blossomed into a very substantial element in the landscape.

I was just a minor player in the project, advising the associate, Joseph James, of Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects, Watertown, Massachusetts, who worked closely with Jennifer Harbourt of Reich and Associates Landscape Architects, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Gabe Vicknair of the City of Baton Rouge, to produce a working concept.

RP perspective 1

The design for the park was beautifully done, drastically simplifying what was there before: a glitsy concrete waterfall-monolith garden. The idea behind the new design, I believe, was to open-up the space and make it more of a central open-space between the Natural History Museum, the Convention Center, City Hall and the Old State Capitol. The park can now be used as lawn for kids to play, a sitting area for relaxation, a small outdoor concert area and an area for kids to get wet and cool off in the water-jet play area on a hot summer day: all the while functioning as a green-space connection between the much-used public buildings that surround it.


Joe and I hammered out the details of executing a planting of what is not on the typical plant list regionally: Indian grass. The Indian grass was used for an area that required a plant that would permanently stabilize the very steep slope that dropped dramatically from the park’s central walkway and a plant that would require the very least amount of maintenance.






above: Indian grass meets lawn and walkway

IMG_7284  IMG_8435IMG_9964

above: an image of the slope with a Cereal Rye cover-crop (April).  Another image, as the Rye was finishing-up and laying over as mulch (June) with Indian just getting started. And yet another of the Indian grass in full-glory after the Cereal Rye has withered away (yesterday, August).

I collected seed of Indian grass from the Cajun Prairie Habitat Preservation Society’s restoration site and passed it on to Gail Barton(Yardflower, Meridian, Mississippi) who is skilled at germinating the seed of the plant. She, over the years, has found the precise window of time that is crucial to getting the seed germination to occur. She shifted the seedlings into one inch plug trays and pampered them until it was time to ship them out. It took about a year altogether to grow the plants.


above: slope before planting

I picked the plants up from Gail in November and delivered them on to George Francise, who was the magician-contractor who did the soil work, planting and management part of the project. And a stellar job he did!

Joe and I designed the Indian grass plugs to be planted, with a cover crop of Cereal Rye (Secale cereale L.) to be seeded immediately after planting the Indian grass. The Cereal Rye is a grain-grass plant that is less leafy and more vertical in growth than common Rye grass and doesn’t shade out, starve for sunlight, the plants it is growing with. But the Cereal Rye also functioned as a temporary soil stabilizer / erosion control plant until the Indian grass got going. It functioned as a mulch when it died and it also was pretty green in winter, adding a little texture, color and form contrast to the lawn and dwarf Carrisa hollies nearby.

The Ceral Rye was a big hit when it went into bloom (inflorescence). It provided a temporary pastoral image while the Indian grass got settled in, rooted and ready for summer growth.

Summer brought the intense heat and sunlight, which is a requirement of Indian grass. And the Indian responded to this. The soil that was obviously a really good processed soil, from somewhere local, I suspect. It provided a good medium for the Indian roots to grow.

In June, I had dropped in to check on the planting and was quite happy with how things were but it was clear that a fertilization application was in order. I suspect that that was done because when I stopped in yesterday, the Indian grass was something to see! As my Dad and Mom always said: it was a sight for sore eyes. The grass was mostly three or four feet in height and in some cases, reaching to six feet, with terminals getting ready to form its much-anticipated flower spikes. In a month it should be an even more dramatic sight to behold as the fluffy yellow plumes emerge atop the stems, and sway in the late summer breeze.

The genetic diversity expressed in the plants is something of interest to me. Not one plant looks like another with different heights and different leaf forms and different leaf color. This is, I am sure, a planting like no other around: 3200 indian grass plants in one planting, functioning as a purposeful landscape element but it will also have the unique ability of providing a larval host source for the Pepper and Salt skipper butterfly.






All indications are the plant will be there a long while, having been so well cared for in the landscape. It will not only produce seed that will drop and seed in bare areas between plants but it will also spead clonally to eventually cover the vacant spaces on the slope, creating a solid stand of vegetation.


above: the pepper and salt skipper butterfly should find it good living at the Park. Its tiny and fast!

good day!