keep bugging me, man!

Habitat Conversion

Convert a patch of your lawn into prairie and find a world you would never discover otherwise; the plants, the patterns, the bugs!!!

Insects are not just beneficial, they’re essential! Bugs are good. Ask any Mother bird who is fluttering about in search of food for her chicks and she’ll tell ya. “chirp, bugs are good for my bebes! …..chirp chirp!”

“A single pair of breeding chickadees must find 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to rear one clutch of young”, according to Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware. Even though seeds and berries are nutritious winter staples, insects are best for feeding growing fledglings. Surprisingly, insects contain more protein than beef, and 96% of North American land birds feed their young with them. Although fly maggots and spiders might curl your lip, to a chickadee, these are life-saving morsels full of fat and protein.

If you’re not a fan of six legged organisms, you should curl up with Dr. Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home. It will reveal the complexity of nature through bugs. or just pull up any Doug Tallamy youtube video.

Then you’ll see!

Personal Outlook Conversion

What comes along with growing a prairie landscape besides flowery landscapes and bugs, is something you’ll find within yourself, a sense of satisfaction that goes far beyond what a garden can bring; a lesson in gratefulness and gratitude, a lifetime of beauty, joy and wonder.

Easily Demonstrating Pollinator Response

Wonderful things happen when you prairie garden. Plant Monarda punctata, Spotted Horsemint, and see a world of beauty and intrigue develop before you, from the tiniest seeds. Horsemint is a mid-succession to late succession species that comes up easily from seed (its a weed) in a prepared soil. It competes and proliferates over time. Kids! try this at home!

 

after a week of overcast rainy weather, the pollinators insects are out en masse, and very active, taking advantage of a first dry sunny day – this was planted in November 1998 – Pastorek Habitats-Meadowmakers’ seed farm – Carriere, Mississippi. What you can’t see clearly in the video, are many polllinator insects – working the Horsemint flowers for nectar. I walk right through the bees and wasps and they don’t bother me a bit – they’re too busy to notice. 🙂

 

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Spotted Horse Mint is a highly aromatic plant with all parts having a pleasant citrusy scent.

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above, a tiny native bee dances the Watusi in the disc of a Compass Plant flower – at the farm – tell me where you’ve seen one of these bee’s lately?

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Ville Platte’s Louisiana State Arboretum’s native prairie developing into a nice sod

The Louisiana State Arboretum prairie garden is near the arrival area, at the Park’s Visitor’s Center, adjacent to the parking lot.

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planted in the winter of 2012 with seed provided by Pastorek Habitats, these gardens have developed into a decent representation of what an attractive prairie habitat can be. The seed was collected from the Cajun Prairie Restoration site and other relic prairie areas in southwest Louisiana.

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Sabatia, Rose Gentian, above

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Green Milkweed

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obviously not my hand, ha – Kim Hollier, Interpetive Ranger at the Arboretum, holds the flowering head of a member of the Carrot Family, a “hyper-pollinator” species, Eryngium yuccafolia, Button Snakeroot.

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above Liatirs, Blazing Star, and a very happy Gulf Fritillary butterfly, foreground, with a Switch grass mass, in background.

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Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly

(photos by Arboretum Interpretive Ranger Kim Hollier)

 


 

Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint – pollinator plant profile

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Mt. Mint flowering clusters make a good landing pad for butterflies

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Even though the flower clusters are tee-tiny and really need to be examined by using a hand lens to truly appreciate them, they can be quite showy in the landscape when in found in large numbers. Generally speaking, when you find this plant in the wild, it is usually a sign, an indicator, of high quality vegetation. Its a nearly carefree garden plant, with annual cutting back of spent stalks, the only chore needed to keep it looking at its best. In nature, fire does this. No insects that I have ever seen cause it any damage. They are probably too intoxicated by its sweet nectar to care about eating the plant.

Mountain Mints are highly aromatic. All parts of the plant have minty scented qualities and can be used to make tea and as a culinary spice.

I don’t remember ever having lost a plant in a garden and in fact it readily multiplies; it proliferates!

Plantings that I did in my seed field many years ago are now large masses that have spread and become the dominant feature in the landscape, moving out other exotic and early succession species.

A plant grown from seed becomes, over a three year period, a clump about a foot or so in diameter. The clumps increase in size over the years, becoming a dense ground cover, a green carpet an inch or two high in the cool of winter. When in bloom, at its peak, its stands about two feet tall.

Gardening with Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint is so simple – easier than tying your shoe. Propagate it by division by separating individual plants from the mature clumps. Take cuttings from vegetative growth just as the stems become rigid (June) and well before they begin to elongate and bud up to flower.

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above, Like many prairie species, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium, has an extensive range of distribution. You’ll find it in prairies relics in the eastern half of the country. (source, BONAP)

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In Louisiana, its generally out of the river flood plain parishes, but just about everywhere else. (source Vascular Flora of Louisiana)

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from Charles Allen’s Edible Plants of the Gulf South

 



 

City of Mandeville / La. Dept of Transportation “Wildflower Conservation Garden” (that apparently no one notices! ha!) Feeds the Insect Masses!

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above, some schmuck standing next to one of the dozen or so Long Leaf Pine trees in the City of Mandeville prairie, a prairie garden grown from awesome local-gene, Pastorek Habitat seed. Nice Ragweed in the photo foreground – the yellow flowers are likely Coreopsis linifolia

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saweet! Impressed, huh!

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a nice patch of mature Bothriochloa, above

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a stand of Florida Paspalum has arrived on the scene, above

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…and the first Rough Leaf Goldenrod will bloom this year…yay!

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some good sized polulations of Clustered Bushmint _Hyptis alata

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and some Spotted Horsemint, too…

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Little Bluestem grass, a conservative species, starts its late-summer reach to the sky, with flowering stalks (inflorescence) that will produce viable seed – the proliferating garden

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above, the first Liatris to bloom so far in the Mandeville garden, shows its adolescent floral spikes. Not sure which species – didn’t look. but could be pycnostachya, spicata or acidota. These and many other perennial plants will start to mature enough to start colonizing within the Bluestem structure, coloring up the landscape over time.

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above, 25 years of Liatris pycnostachya proliferation in Cajun Prairie Society restored prairie, Eunice, La., the result is a quite unusual and stunningly beautiful landscape, produced via seed. This garden has been the inspiration for my last twenty plus years of work. Dr. Charles M. Allen and his magical botanical creation, co-instigated by his friend and colleague Dr. Malcolm F. Vidrine, succeeded in their effort to establish a restored prairie in which to study prairie Ecology and restoration. Ten years ago there were just a smattering of the Liatris in this field, its only in the last several years that it has proliferated to this point. (September 2014) (click on photo to enlarge)

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Liatris pycnostachya, remnant prairie, Cameron Parish, Louisiana

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Laitris seed, magnified

The Southeastern U.S. pine landscapes are often called Long Leaf Pine-Bluestem plant communities because these two species were once the dominant species, generally speaking. Today it is not common to find either one of these in wild landscapes.

When I stopped in last week to see the Mandeville garden, the insect species were everywhere flying above, and nectaring on flowering plants. As I waded through the planting, grasshoppers, bees, skippers and moths darted away from me to a safer perch – and the sky was filled with hundreds and hundreds of Dragonflies.

 

the one + acre Mandeville Garden is at the corner of East Causeway Approach and Louisiana State Highway 190 – go check out all the critters, see it for yerself, ya’ll! its bad-ass.

Charles M. Allen Phd plant identification classes – see below link – these are excellent, intense classes in which to learn more about plant taxonomy

Sept 10-11 edible plant workshop – Allen Acres B and B

Sept 13-15 basic plant id workshop – Allen Acres

Sept 20-22 Wetlands Plant id workshop – Allen Acres

Sept 24 Pollination Celebration

https://tpmgblog.wordpress.com/pollination-celebration-2016/

Sept 24-25 Prairie Conference – Lafayette, La

http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event;jsessionid=35FA525E0215A325CCC9ECB3F93A6C0F.worker_registrant?llr=ejjbmvjab&oeidk=a07ecyp33k35061afd9

Sept 27-29 Graminoid (grass identification) workshop – Allen Acres

Sept 30-Oct 2 Butterfly Blast – Allen Acres

Oct 4-6 basic plant workshop (Poplarville, Ms)

Oct 8-10 basic plant workshop – Allen Acres

Oct 17-18 edible plant workshop – Allen Acres

Oct 25-27 basic plant id workshop – Allen Acres

Oct 29-30 edible plant workshop – Allen Acres

November 4-5 plant id workshop, Belle Chasse, La

Nov 6 edible plant workshop – half-day – Belle Chasse, La

 

for more info on these dates contact Dr. Charles Allen @   native@camtel.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Al gets hitched!

Mr. Al, the stately Live Oak tree that the Louisiana Department of Transportation saved from destruction a few years ago by moving it one mile ‘up the road’, welcomed some permanent company- a life companion, his favorite friend, a prairie, Tuesday. Al the Tree, had grown-up in a spot which had been slated for a shiny new frontage road on the adjacent highway 90. An effort was made by the community and the DOT to move him to a safe, comfortable place, where he could have a better view of the folks headed into New Iberia from the west. ha. and be out of the way of traffic. Ryan Duhon, a former student of Professor Foret, and district supervisor for the Louisiana DOT provided expert assistance in preparing the site for a new Cajun Prairie planting, about one and a half acres altogether, enough of a billowy blanket of prairie the ground fully surrounding Old Al, enough to make it all better. 🙂

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Moving a mile up the road, if your an maturing Live Oak, is quite a traumatic event. One day somebody’s fishing under your shade-casting limbs, and another you’re a mile further north! 😦  This could take years of prairie therapy for old guy to overcome. 🙂

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Jim Foret and his fellow-prairie-planters haying the seed.

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above, Mr. Al

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left to right, Dr. Jim Foret, four very happy and helpful Highway Transportation Dept technicians, DOT’s Ryan Duhon, Steven Nevitt, Lilli Voorhies, Jacob Delahoussaye, and lastly, another of Jim’s students, can’t remember his name 😦    (I asked for and will add the names of these fine folks later).

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The DOT hired Professor Jim to speak the language of tree and to care and nurse it along to new establishment. So time has passed and Al is now settled in, kicked back, relaxing with his bud Prairie.

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After a two year period of site prep, and three years after the transplanting of the tree, the new Cajun Prairie garden at the intersection of Jefferson Terrace Blvd and U.S. Highway 90 is now planted and the process of transition will be starting very soon with tiny spring-germinated seedlings.

 

The University of Lafayette, Experimental Farm, Cade, Louisiana, to develop a large experimental-research-demonstration Cajun Tallgrass Prairie gardens

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above, preparation will soon be underway at this ten-acre site at the Cade Farm, thanks to Susan Hester Edmonds, farm manager Mark Simon, and Professor Jim Foret’s native grassland initiative. We will develop designs of different models of Cajun Prairie vegetation to plant via seed.

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the ULL Model Sustainable Agriculture Complex is 600+ acres of farm and research land south of Lafayette near Cade, Louisiana

 

Here’s your sign!

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A sign for the soon-to-be 10 acres of prairie grass and wetland gardens scattered about the length of Lafitte Greenway and Revitalization Park project in New Orleans which now connects the French Quarter to The New Orleans City Park- Bayou St. John area. Howabout that, ya’ll?

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above, prairie grasses dominate the prairie landscape in the beginning of winter here in the central Gulf rim. The Doug Green home in Folsom, yesterday afternoon, looking east from the north side of the garden. These cool gardens were planted two years ago from seed.

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looking west, above. all of the summer vegetation has seeded and the remaining grasses, still with seed, wave in the wind

 

Black Bayou and English Bayou Mitigation Bank visit, fruitful

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above, Will Grant, left, discusses the wetland mitigation goals for one of converting the four large parcels of fallow row-crop fields that we visited last Tuesday, south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, into a Cajun Prairie habitat via local-genetic, source certified seed.

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building sustainable natural pyrogenic grassland wetlands through the only practical means available, local-genetic seed.

Reserve, La. pollinator field flower-window closes

First-frost lays down Marathon Oil Refinery’s pollinator garden. see smart-phone video of the garden last Sunday before the Monday morning freeze came, below.

 

Cool Grass Garden, Baton Rouge

The Lamar Advertising building on Corporate drive serves as a buffer between the busy boulevard and a hidden patio area for the employees and guests to relax under the shade of Live Oak trees.

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above, Design image by Mossop+Michaels Landscape Architecture, summer 2012

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above, the Lamar berm is about 150 across and 70 deep, rising about six feet from the natural ground plane. Muhly grass inflorescences of pinky-purple in flower last week, Tuesday. Pastorek Habitats consulted on soils and plants and the technical approaches – specifications, needed for executing the design. There are wildflowers in the planting that bloom in the summer, and we’re trying a new approach with the use of annuals this spring, attempting to get even more from this large low-input landscape.

 

Visit Crescent Park, New Orleans, its worth the time

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Had the pleasure of consulting on the process for developing the awesome native grass landscapes at Crescent Park back in 2012 and visited the gardens twice now, looking for glimpses of the contractor’s handiwork. I met with Casey Guidry Monday to talk about the present state of the meadows. She is interested in tying the prairie idea to education, with the idea of bringing school children to visit and incorporating some interpretive signage – information for those with a curiosity about the gardens.

The ornamental gardens, separate from the meadows, at Crescent are beautifully done. The architecture, creative hardscape walking surfaces, and its up-close views of the mighty Mississippi River are so uniquely and pleasantly layed-out with such inventive use of horticulture, including my favorite, the masses of Evergreen Golderod, Solidago sempervirens, which is nothing but a coastal weed (a good one). It’s super-prolific. Its pretty.. It’s easy to establish and in fact is showing up in adjacent gardens. Like I said, its a weed, but a good one. It’s a superduper pollinator plant that is super-easy from seed. Try it, you’ll like it.

check out a photo by Julia Lightner, of Elmer’s Island, near Grand Isle, Louisiana, with a tall marsh-meadow of Switch grass and Evergreen Goldenrod, below

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A spectaculary positioned bridge upon another bridge – you step up and over the rail tracks over the cool arched bridge at the entrance to the Park to see the massive twin Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridges in the distance, separated by the River’s vastness and the famous Algiers Point. The very spot of the River you see here is the deepest, at 180+ feet, on the west bank at just below the point, in the eddy of the point.

Wow! Wow, is right!

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Rusty red leaf color of Red Maples blends with the rusty red of the arched bridge, above

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black pervious paving works well with near-white monlithic slab-benches that stretch at angles, lengthwise across the park. The use of cobblestones and re-purposed brick accent areas along the walkways.

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Hargreaves and Associates, of San Fransisco, designed the Park. They resurected some wharf areas and left some derelict, leaving the character of the original site, a hundred year old former wharf-shipping dock-warehouse complex.

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I arrived early and saw only a few folks running, one guy was practising his trumpet, blaring it out onto the riverscape. How aprapos.

 

 

 

Louisiana’s Cajun mountains

I had the most wonderful opportunity last Wednesday to meet up with Christopher Reid at one of the newly discovered Coastal Tall grass prairies located on private land in Calcasieu Parish. The prairie exists on an old and very large cattle farm operation stretching south from  the town of Vinton all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Chris is botanist for the State Natural Heritage Program. His job is finding, preserving and assisting in managing rare land and the vegetation that grows on it. Last summer, Chris and his fellow Wildlife and Fisheries staff members erected fenced-off study plots to exclude cattle from the vegetation within. This will, over time, give the vegetation a rest from grazing and should provide a unique opportunity to see what species return naturally. It was a really exciting and interesting visit for me considering that as far as we know yet, there are no longer any good and sizable examples of our native prairie preserved in Louisiana. This farm, like three others the State is working with, has the potential to be brought back to its former glorious self: a natural, diverse prairie complete with Pimple Mound formations. One of the most significant things I saw was the height of the pimple mounds (Mima mounds, Coppice dunes) that were scattered across the landscape. Mima mounds are naturally occurring circular raised areas of soil, laid down during the late Pleistocene era (that’s a long time ago, folks). The soils are really sandy, and it shows. Chris and I were finding plants that aren’t normally this close to the Gulf. They aren’t except on top of these mounds. These were high mounds all right, up to four feet tall or maybe a bit higher. Ones I had previously seen were just slightly raised areas a few inches or so high and several feet around. So dramatically different and the altitude of these so high, they were well worthy of being called Cajun mountains, especially considering the flatness of the land in this part of the state.

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above: Chris Reid on top of a nearly imperceptible Cajun mountain

All plants that were not on the mounds were indicative of a high moisture regime, meaning they showed the soils there were for the most part, very wet. Conspicuous was the Brownseed paspalum, Texas Coneflower, Hairy Fruited Hibiscus, Water Hemlock, and the other usual Cajun Prairie suspects.

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Hairy Fruited Hibiscus has lots of fuzz

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above: the foliage of the Carrot Family member, Hooker’s Eryngo IMG_5209

above: native Hairy Petunia Ruellia humulus tucked in with the obnoxious multiflora rose, an invasive exotic species that gets around via fruit-eating birds. Rosa multiflora is a hateful, thorny thing.

Up on the mountains were plants from way up in Vernon Parish, 100 miles north, where the soils are super-sandy. Who ever heard of Sassafras less than a mile from coastal fresh water marsh? The mima mounds have, thats who! This sand loving Sassafras stood out like a sore thumb. She was hanging out with her buddies Queen’s Delight, Wooly White, and a bunch of other highlanders, way up where the air is much thinner. And the view from atop the mountains? ….you could see for a hundred feet!

There were several odd-ball species found on the flats, too. White Topped Sedge, typically a Pine herbaceous species, was growing right there in the wet prairie soils, big as the sky. Hooker’s Eryngo was a new species for me. I am the biggest fan of Eryngium species in general, and seeing this in the wild was quite the treat. I got that same feeling I used to get as a kid when the ice cream truck music sounded through my old neighborhood. This species is not listed in the distribution book for that Parish, nor is it in the Floristic Assessment for Coastal Prairie. Nice! Also present and accounted for was Rough Leafed Goldenrod and the Antelope Horn and Longleaf Milkweeds.

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Rough Leafed Goldenrod

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Long Leaf Milkweed

Strangely and conspicuously absent was Switch grass and Gamma grass. Overgrazing, Chris suspected. I did find what I thought to be a small clump of Big Bluestem, which got him all excited. Its pretty easily id’d even at an early, infertile stage. He was glad to see it barely grazed outside the pens

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above: Chris took me in the direction of the gulf to look for a plant he had seen on an earlier trip. We hiked about a while to a Buffalo wallow area (a marias), where he collected a tiny grass-like plant (that I forget the name of) as a state record for Calcasieu Parish. Yip Yip!!

As we were done and leaving, we wheeled out of the farm property and onto the Parish road, where Chris slowed to show me Side Oats Gramma grass growing big as can be and thick as hair on a goat’s back. This was the catch of the day for me. I have only seen this a couple of times in Louisiana and seeing it a stone’s throw from the Gulf was both exciting and encouraging. Until now, I thought that growing this plant this close to the Gulf was not possible. It was a very hopeful end of the trip for me. I would like to one day be able to work with it more than I have. It has great ornamental and restoration potential. If I can, I’ll get a couple of handfuls of seed when they ripen perhaps, and see what comes of growing it.

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Side Oats Gramma grass in flower, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana

ULL’s Center for Ecology and Environmental Technology offers Pure Native™prairie seed availability!

The CEET center, as its commonly called, is a research facility of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. One of the programs on line there is a native seed operation developed by the Director, Dr. Susan Mopper. Dr. Mopper and her colleagues have been hard at work for many years, producing seed for herbaceous planting projects in Acadiana and the surrounding region. The seed is collected from gardens that were established for research and for seed production.

This is exciting news since we need all of the seed producers of natives that the market can support, and more!

The Center offers seed and can contract-grow prairie plants, as well. They have, on site, a state-of-the-art greenhouse and the technical wherewithal to grow cool plants for cool projects.

Dr. Mopper is currently offering seed of 24 wildflowers and 9 grasses. This is really great news since I regularly get requests for individual seed but have found over the years that this is not practical nor profitable (at least it wasn’t for me). Now I have a place to send people to when I’m asked, instead of sending them out-of-state. yip!! Dr. Mopper also offers custom growing of wildflowers and grasses so you can request and accept delivery of some way-cool plants grown by the best, with local genetics. This is a really good thing.

Its very likely you’ll have mixed results with growing the seed since some local genetics have less than good germination while some have excellent germination. This is typical for Cajun Prairie seed. Actually, with this seed, we’ve found that some years seed is particularly viable and other years not so much. Germination of our local prairie ecotypes varies from species to species and from year to year. And don’t be a fool and throw out a seed tray after the first year. I’ve seen seed germinate and grow after the second winter, after it gets double dormancy requirements met. Some seed may take a year or two or more to germinate. Some, like Big Bluestem, will probably only produce 5% or less seedlings of the seed sown. But if you sow it out directly into the field, you may see like I did, that the eed is viable, it just needs the right circumstances to grow. As Charles Allen, Famous Prairie guru and third degree black belt in buffet says, “be patient, grasshopper”.

Careful though, with one of their species. One they refer to as Blue Mountain Mint. I have always heard it called Lowland Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum. They probably shouldn’t sell this species or if they do, they should sell it with a written disclaimer, since if you get it started in your garden, it may not get stopped. Its a runner. A very aggressive plant. It’ll take the back forty if you let it so…beware. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pollinator plant par excellence and is a fantastic nurse-plant for large prairie restorations, but I would consider this a bad weed in a garden situation. Anyone who has grown it would agree! However, all the other species are saweet!!

See descriptions of these and other super prairie plants in my old Meadowmakers catalog at this link. Gail Barton produced this 2007 catalog back when I thought selling individual species was going to make me some “monay”!!! whoot!

Um, boy I was wrong.     🙂

CEET site           http://ulecology.com/site53.php

my catalogue     https://marcpastorek.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/mmcatalog2007.pdf