It’s Texas Native Plant Week and to celebrate, I’m profiling some of the native plants in my gardens.
Mostly, I’m about blooms–flowers are what I love about a garden. Angiosperms are boss.
Flowers are pretty.
They’re bright and showy and are what initially attracts most people to a garden. But more importantly, flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other assorted pollinators. Flowers and pollinators work and play well together. Flowers are one stage in the reproduction cycle of a diverse array of plants. Once plants grow, bloom and have been pollinated, they become seeds. Or berries. Or some form of plant DNA transport mechanism, ready to spread their genetic material to the next generation. Then, they attract a different crew of critters to eat them, poop them, and that glorious botanical cycle begins anew.
Obviously, all of my flowering natives produce seeds and often, the “fruits” are quite attractive. But for today, I’m focusing on the native plants in my gardens which showcase especially lovely or interesting berries or seeds desired by gardeners, especially gardeners who want to attract wildlife to their gardens and who doesn’t want to do that?
Texas in known for its spicy Tex-Mex food and there are many hot chile peppers used in the preparation of salsa, enchilada sauce, and other delectable yummies. However, the only native chile pepper in Texas is the Chile Pequin, Capsicum annuum.
This beautiful plant grows wild, in sun or shade ( it’s best in shade, I think), and is great for birds and husbands who love hot peppers.
I wrote recently about the American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana. It’s a beautiful, deciduous, arching shrub with striking purple berries in late summer and fall.
Like the Chile Pequin, Beautyberry is a plant that works well in either sun or shade, though I prefer it in shade. In mass plantings, it’s stunning. It’s also a plant that attracts birds; sometimes those birds eat the berries almost as soon as they ripen and in other years, the gardener will be allowed to enjoy the beauty of those berries for a longer time.
Pigeonberry, Rivina humilis, is a small, ground-cover type perennial,
…with bright red, apparently delicious, berries. Producing berries during summer and fall, Pigeonberry supplies birds with a long season of nibbling. Another shade-appropriate plant, in my gardens the doves dine on those luscious berries.
Inland Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, is a hardy and resilient, but graceful grass which lends softness to any garden.
It has a wide native distribution and grows best in shade and dappled shade.
It will seed out profusely, but can be controlled with moderate weeding.
Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua, grows native in a large swath of the central to southern part of the United States, including Central Texas. It’s a small, usually multi-trunked tree with beautiful red-orange berries in the winter. The berries on my tree are just beginning their color turn, from green to red.
By late fall, the berries will be ready for eating by the many birds who enjoy them. On my Possumhaw, the berries generally remain on the tree through most of winter, well after Possumhaw loses its leaves (“decidua”, deciduous). It’s quite a lovely winter plant. Sometime in late winter, the Cedar Waxwings will swoop through and within a day, relieve the Possumhaw of its cheery berries.
Its kin, the evergreen Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, (one of my all-time favorite botanical names), is also a small tree with gorgeous and desirable berries,
…which have already turned red. The berries of the Yaupon are redder and shinier than the Possumhaw berries. Mockingbirds are always in this tree hopping and munching and tweeting warnings to others to stay away from their food source.
This is a small sampling of native plants with attractive-to-gardeners and valuable-to-wildlife food sources. There are other shrubs, trees, and perennials which produce lovely seeds, seed pods, and berries–I wish I had room for them all!