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.








showin’ the love for the praealtus

Occasionally, in this neck of the woods, you’ll see an old field with two dominant species of wild flowers in full flower, this time of year: Canada Goldenrod and Aster praealtus, both are really common.

I am glad to say that I am the proud owner of such a field.

Much of the prairie gardens at my farm were planted in an old cow field, mostly covered in Bahia grass but with lots of the Goldenrod and Aster mixed in. In some of the gardens, the Bahia, Golderod and Aster have actually been pushed out through pressure from prairie succession, the  prairie’s natural ability to compete. But in many of the plots, where I didn’t use grass seed, the prairie pressure wasn’t enough competition and the Goldenrod and Aster have persisted and have done just fine, much to the delight of the many species insects that seem to thoroughly enjoy gathering the nectar and pollen, or whatever it is they gather, when fall comes to south Mississippi.

“Aster praealtus blooms the third week of October, just when the Monarchs are passing through”   Malcolm Vidrine 2014


Aster Praealtus, in lavender purple color, above, is a demure thing, not particularly well known in horticultural circles but a fantastic eco-plant.

Aster laevis video with bugs and a Variegated Fritillary butterfly (I think its a Variegated).

Normally, the Golderod is two or three weeks ahead of the Aster, in flowering time, phenology. But I burned this particular 3 acre patch on July 18th and the two are blooming in sequence together now as a result of that burn.


burned in July, with fifteen year old Long Leaf Pines


the pines = el fab!


Goldenrod glory is, too. Is there a more beautiful flowering plant? click the photo to enlarge…

Here is the Goldenrod in living color with lots of buzzy, busy bugs.


COOL GRASSES – I brake for Bluestems (etc.)!


above, Little Bluestem grass, a one-year old seedling


Bluestem seed gathering by hand, below



Bluestem looks good even on gloomy days when its rainy and the sun doesn’t shine


a cool native lawn that I did with seed of the grass, Sporoblus junceus, here on a soggy day, in fruit


Split-Beard Bluestem is an obvious thing. When you know it, you can spot it a hundred feet away. Silvery-white inflorescences are an easy-peasy ID.

more critters


Lots of Fritillary caterpillars at the farm, and Butterflies, too. There were sulfurs and Gulf Fritillaries, Variegated Fritillaries, and many many Monarchs. I was there from 7:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening and it was in the hundreds of butterflies for the day for me and I wasn’t even paying that close attention, I was a-workin’!  🙂

monarch intoxicated by aster praealtus, video from el Farm


above, seed wrapped and ready for the ride to storage. All day the Fritillaries were landing on the Bluestem seed, seeming to like it even after it was harvested. They must have smelled something on it…. hmmm. They were all over the stuff.

Cajun Prairie birdees

Was in Cameron Parish collecting in an amazing Bluestem prairie before that crazy Pacific hurricane rolled in last week and shot this video of birds I have seen in this same open-field condition before. They were enjoying the machine’s stirring of vegetation which I think brought out the critters they were feeding on. They followed me around the field for hours. black with blue and white markings, very pretty.

Maybe they were after the Mosquito hawks-dragon flies whose numbers seemed as great as the birds. or maybe it was the mosquitos which were great in number, too!