Native or Not

Defining and identifying which plants are native is not easy because, first of all, there is no definitive definition.

Wikipedia definition:  “Native plants are plants indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (trees, flowers, grasses, and other plants). Some native plants have adapted to very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions.”

Sometimes it is difficult to find natives for sale at nurseries.  This False Foxglove was growing along our county road, so I dug up a couple of clumps about four years ago.

Texas Native Plant Society defines natives as plants that were growing naturally here when the European settlers came or plants that were growing naturally in this state at the beginning of the Holocene Recent Epoch, which began about 8,000 – 10,000 years ago, just after the last Ice Age.

Really?

Actually, in Texas we are lucky to have Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center because they have native plant sales twice a year.

Another way to get natives is from a friend or an acquaintance.  This plant came from a garden club sale.  It is Western Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) that was growing in Texas at the time of the arrival of the Europeans, and thus is considered native by some botanists.

Now, how does anyone know that?  Is there a notebook somewhere that has descriptions and drawings of this plant?

The feathery soft leaves are nice in small vases with small flowers.

This was also bought at a garden club sale.  I thought it was native but after some research, I believe it is Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine).  It is a sterile, non-reseeding variety.

Looks like it will grow much taller than I realized.  The reason it was planted in this cattle feeder was to shade the “feet” of a Clematis vine.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture definition of “native plant” is “a plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention.” That definition also might apply to many “naturalized” plants that were introduced long ago, but are now thriving and spreading without human intervention.

Dripping with blossoms, the Yellow Lead Ball Tree is a pretty small multi-branched tree.

Crossvine or Trumpet Flower (Bignonia capreolata) is a sought-after vine because it is a vigorous grower and has tubular flowers that draws pollinators.

Don’t confuse this with Trumpet Creeper or Cow-itch Vine (Campsis radicans) which is invasive.

Plants that were introduced by man during the last three hundred or so years and that have adapted to our landscape and climate are referred to as “naturalized.”  Some of these are aggressive and are considered invasive or noxious.

Mexican Buckeye or Texas Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) has pink/white flowers while it is leafing out and bears these unusual seed pods.  In fall the leaves are supposed to turn yellow.  This one was planted in early February.

Texas Primrose (Calylophus drummondianus var. berlandieri)is a Texas Native that has needle-like foliage.

It thrives in rocky bar ditches.

Long swaths of Pink Evening Primrose or Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) along the highway makes me want to stop and get up close to them.

Simple, yet lovely.

Native Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum) does not like to be watered.  These appear in flower beds but die out if over watered.

Ox-eye  or Margarita Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgarde) is considered by many to be a native but is actually native to Europe and parts of Asia.

The whole idea of native versus non-native is a hot topic right now in Texas.  Some people are offended by planting anything but natives.  But as the definitions show, that is not an exact science.  Others think that natives do not belong in urban settings.

Personally, I plant what will survive and do well in my region.  If I like something that won’t survive our winter, then I put it in a pot.  Then it can be moved into a shed.  My philosophy:   be practical and lighten up.

Sorry this is so long.  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.  I want Texas to look like Texas and Vermont to look like Vermont.”  Lady Bird Johnson

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Poppy Season

An overnight trip took us south to Austin and Fredericksburg.  Bright colors abound at one of my favorite nursuries:  Wildseed Farms.

Two of my husband’s favorite places are Abuelo’s Mexican Restaurant and Mamacita’s Restaurant.  We indulged in both..

Guess our motto is never pass up a nursery or Mexican restaurant.

Red Corn Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) and Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) were blooming everywhere on the nursery grounds.

Very tall Chollo Cactus tower about eleven feet high in the air.

Rocket Larkspurs (Delphinium ajacis) stand primly in place.  Way too early for them in our zone 7b area.

Think this is Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus coccineus).  Also known as Claret Cup Cactus or Scarlet Beehive Cactus, they grow farther west, starting around San Angelo.  Guess it stays warm enough in the winter for them at the nursery.

Of course, this time of the year means Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis).  It’s nearly the end of their prime time.  The yellow Poppies are probably California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica).

The metal cactus are attractive and look great in the nursery setting.

Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) is a great pollinator plant.  Mine froze this winter, even though labels say it is cold hardy to zone 7a.

More Primroses.  The word “sweet” comes to mind when I see them.

Wow!  Wow! Wow!  How gorgeous is that.  Fields of Red Corn Poppies are so bright.

This sight reminded me that red poppies are worn to honor veterans.  The practice started after WWI.

The blue strip behind the Poppies are Bluebonnets.

The Wildseed Farms grow all these flowers for the seeds.  The owner uses larger properties near Houston to raise even more flowers.  Early last year, floods covered those fields and wiped out much of his seed supply for this year.

The Poppy petals are as thin as one-ply toilet paper and more fragile.  They flutter in the wind creating constant movement.

There are lots of walking trails near the wildflower fields and closer to the buildings, making it a pleasure to visit in a garden-like setting.

Don’t know what this tree is.  Maybe a Waterfall or Laceleaf Weeping Japanese maple?

Waterlilies in a small pond beside the tree in the previous picture.

One last look at Poppies as we exit the area.

Composed at the battlefield on May 3, 1915, during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium, following the death of a close friend.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

Canadian John McCrae

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Wild in Spring

For those of us who were skeptical about the prospect of wildflowers this year, we are happily having to eat our words.  The variety isn’t as wide as some years, but the beauty is terrific.

daisies2Even before the Bluebonnets start to fade, all kinds of yellow daisies and asters appear in large swatches.

daisies3The differences in their flowers are subtle and require close inspection and knowledge to identify them.

daisies4Usually mixed in among the groups of yellow flowers are other wildflowers and weeds.  In the above picture Sweet William or Wild Verbena add some purple.

roadside2The next wildflower in succession is the Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).

indian blankets In an undisturbed field, they can cover acres providing brilliant color.

indian blankets2Sometimes it’s called a Firewheel.

indian blankets3Like most Texas wildflowers, they are hardy.  I personally think that God provides this spring show to encourage us as we face the unbearable summer temperatures.

cowclawsThis is a Buffalo Gourd or Stinking Gourd (Cucurbita foetidissima) vine.  They grow in pastures and produce a small round gourd that is light yellow when ripe.

primroseThe Evening Primrose or Showy Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) starts blooming in late March.  They often grow in massive groups along the roadsides.

primrose3Their toughness and ability to grow in many types of soils and conditions seems incongruent with their delicate looks.

pinkprimroseBecause their petals form a cup shape, they are also known as buttercups.  Aren’t they a sweet flower that looks like it should be in a wedding bouquet?

It has been a good year for a kaleidscope of color in the fields and bar ditches of central Texas.  What a pleasure.

“She attended the Nation’s great needs,
Was admired by Persians and Medes,
But acquired, sad to say,
Somewhere on the way
An unhealthy attachment to weeds.”

Harry Middleton toasting Lady Bird Johnson