Native Texans

In this post you won’t find any cowboy boots or hats, nor plates of barbecue and bowls of salsa, and certainly no funny, twangy accents, but you will see plenty of beauty and Texan toughness.  What is this you’ve stumbled across?  It’s an homage to Texas native plants and to the celebration thereof:  Texas Native Plant Week marked annually during the week of October 16-22.

Nectaring Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) on Zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida).  Twistleaf yucca (Yucca rupicola) serves as a backdrop

Established to educate and encourage Texans to recognize and utilize our lovely, valuable native plants in personal and public gardens, many communities in Texas sponsor events promoting the use of native plants during this week of native plant love.

Plateau goldeneye (Viguiera dentata)

 

Native plants are valuable for many reasons:  they’re easy to grow and maintain, and require less irrigation; they feed and protect native fauna; they’re key to biological diversity, and vital for a healthy environment.

Shrubby blue sage (Salvia ballotiflora)

 

Plants can be native to a wide geographical area–like the whole of North America–or specific to a small, confined eco-system–like the area in which you live.

Texas Craglily (Echeandia texensis)

 

Natives belong where you live, whether you’re in Texas or some other fabulous place.

Turkscap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) and White tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

 

Do we need to practice purity in our gardening aesthetics and utilize only natives in our gardens? Well, it would be nice if we planted all natives, all the time, but for many gardeners, that’s simply not possible because native plants aren’t always as commercially available as non-native plants.  And it’s true that there are many non-native, well-adapted plants which enrich our gardens and beautify our world; it’s perfectly fine to garden with both natives and non-natives.

Red tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) paired with non-native, potted Yucca filamentosa ‘Golden Sword’

But when you plant natives in your garden, you help define the place you live. What grows for me here in urban Austin, Texas doesn’t work–or may not fit–for gardeners in Chicago, Illinois,  Eugene, Oregon, or Bangor, Maine.  What grows here, doesn’t necessarily grow there; plant diversity makes the world go ’round.  All regions enjoy unique botanical flavor and that should be appreciated–and practiced–by those who’re driven to create gardens.

Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

 

Plant natives in your garden for ease and practicality.

Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)

 

Plant natives to protect and nurture wildlife.

Migrating Monarch (Danaus plexippus) nectaring on Turkscap

 

Plant natives for seasonal interest and to elicit a sense of place.

White mistflower (Ageratina havanensis)

 

Especially in urban areas, the use of native plants helps restore wildlife habitat and regional character.

Migrating Monarch on Plateau goldeneye

 

Flowers in the city are like lipstick on a woman–it just makes you look better to have a little color.  Lady Bird Johnson

Plateau goldeneye

 

For more information about Texas Native Plant Week, check out these links:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Native Plants of Texas

Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

 

Today I’m also linking with Carol of May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.  Check out flowers from all over the world, honoring all things blooming–native or otherwise.

Wild blue aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)

22 thoughts on “Native Texans

    • Thanks, Lea! It’s been a real pleasure to see the monarchs this fall. They seemed a bit tardy (I think they got hung up in the mid-west) but they’ve decorated our sky and gardens in these past days.

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  1. Tina I love all the beautiful native flowers of Texas and the wonderful photos that portray them. I especially like the following flowers. Plateau goldeneye its beautiful flowers I seem to form a spider web! The rock rose has a splendid bright pink color. The goldeneye plateau with its yellow daisies is beautiful. The Coleoptera has divine white flowers. I am very happy to see the Monarch butterfly. It is true that native plants grow better. I am still in the country house and have gone out to the garden (to call it somehow) and an example: in the wild part grows a shrub Endrino that without watering has grown 1.50 meters high and 2 meters wide this summer , giving fruit the sloes that eat the birds and are used to make a liquor called Pacharán. Happy Texas Native Plant Week! Greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thank you, Margarita. I also love each of these flowers–I always look forward to their blooms. I’m sure you must have some wonderful native plants in Spain–to feed the birds and to make drinks from!

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  2. Ha! That is exactly what I try to tell people about California natives. Although I enjoy exotics in my own garden where I do not mind taking care of them, we really should be using more natives in landscapes that should be less demanding, such as on our freeway system, etc. However, ‘California native’ is probably a broader designation that ‘Texas native’, because we have so many more different climates and ecosystems here, from harsh desert to rainforest. I can not grow Joshua trees in the comparably damp Santa Cruz Mountains; and coastal redwood trees are not happy in Los Angeles. Incidentally, only one species of palm is native to California, the California fan palm or desert fan palm, Washingtonia filifera. That means that Oklahoma has as many native palms as California does, with their dwarf palmetto, Sabal minor, in McCurtain County. Texas has more palms than California does!

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    • Hi Tony! I’m always baffled at the resistance to using native plants. They’re so easy and beautiful, I just figure that many people are so set in their ways, that they can’t see something that’s new or different to them. Interesting about the palms in Texas vs. California–but like Cali, we also have great differences in our growing zones and ecosystems.

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      • Californians in urban areas are just so out out touch with the environment and what the gardeners are doing, ‘generally’. Those that landscape with natives ‘generally’ do not maintain their landscapes to conform to the standards of society. Such landscapes only look good to those of us who know what they are. It is sad. Horticulture used to be such an important part of our culture here, both synthetic horticulture (such as orchards and agriculture) and natural horticulture. Few people in the Santa Clara Valley know that it is a chaparral, or that there used to be orchards there. Few people in Los Angeles know what a desert is.

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      • I think the same thing is true here in Texas. As well, the idea of “garden beauty” is so limited. Most people think of it as swaths of monoculture turf, with (maybe) a few foundation plants–they just can’t visualize anything else. Seeds left on wildflowers or perennials to feed birds? Forget it– it’s “messy!” The one thing Texas (especially Central Texas) has above most other places is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center as they’re such a presence for the promotion of native plants and planting for wildlife. But, there’s a long way to go to convince most Americans. I noticed that one of the MacCarther genius granst was awarded to a landscape architect from Columbia university, and in one interview, she was asked: ‘how can the average person make a difference in planning for climate change’–her succinct answer was ‘get rid of the lawn’–which is so easy and valuable, but how many people do that? I noticed last week that a young couple who moved into our ‘hood just recently had a pile of St. Augustine grass delivered and they were sodding their back yard. Ugh!

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  3. I am so envious that you have the implementation there of protecting the native plants. Here we are invaded by introduced species, which eventually will be invasive because they came in without their own predators. Also they drive aeau our own natives.

    By the way, I didnt know that Malvaviscus is not native here!

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    • Yes, I think we are very lucky here–many gardeners and commercial landscapes have switched to using natives and/or native cultivars. Most of our local nurseries are excellent about carrying native plants, though the big box stores lag behind. I’m sorry that the Phillipines have such problems with invasive species; I can imagine that its native plants are/were probably very special.

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  4. Great post, Tina — you explain really well the value of native plants. I’ve added mostly natives to my yard, mainly because they take care of themselves, which is critical since I’m not much of a gardener! I’ve been plugging away at the yard bit by bit–after years of ignoring it while doing field work all summer. Now I have enough going to enjoy floral color and buzzing visitors 🙂

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    • Thanks, Hollis and congrats upon adding the natives to your space! I’m really glad you’re enjoying your garden–just rewards for work, in the field and elsewhere!

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  5. I’m glad we agree that it is ok to garden with both natives and non-natives. I love those pictures of the goldeneye, especially the one that shows it blooming in a big mass. You have a whole range of Texas natives that are new to me.

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  6. Lovely, a golden display. I realise that it is counter to the whole point of your post, but I was wondering about trying to grow a few of your pretties over here. The white tropical sage would probably do fine, but I do love that turkscap too.

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    • I wonder, have you ever seen any of these plants, either in seed or pots in the UK? I know that some of our native succulents/yuccas are popular, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any Texas or southeastern US perennials on UK gardening blogs.

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  7. I always read your posts with a book or two at hand! This time, I met a lily I didn’t know, and discovered that there are two “blue mistflowers” that I have to learn to differentiate. I’d love to be able to learn how to photograph those little delights, too. I often have trouble getting their color just right.

    I’m glad to see you’ve had Monarchs. They’ve been just thick here this week. One day at work, I spent some time counting them as they fluttered by. I no doubt missed a good many, but in an hour I counted 30.

    One of the most interesting projects I’ve heard of recently is being developed by a young woman who works at the Houston Zoo. She gave a presentation at our NPSOT meeting last week, describing it and asking for volunteers to help in various ways. In simplest terms, there are plans to install ten butterfly gardens of some size between NASA and Exploration Green — an old golf course that’s being turned into retention and detention ponds. The gardens will be no more than 250 meters apart, since that’s the range some pollinators can fly. The point is to give them a way to move back and forth through the urban desert — and merchants and subdivisions will be encouraged over time to get involved, too.

    I grinned last weekend when I discovered a tree in the woods at our local nature center that IS native here — but I had no idea that it was. Just like with the Mexican Olive, I found it by spotting its fruit on the ground. I still haven’t found the tree itself; I need to go back with jeans and boots and long sleeves to trek through the underbrush, but it will show up on my blog. I won’t tease — it’s Osage orange (Maclura pomifera.) The USDA map shows it in Travis County, too, but it’s mostly in a spotty swath through the eastern third of the state.

    And my baby Turk’s cap has had three blooms!

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    • Congrats on the Turk’s blooms! Such a great plant and so valuable for wildlife. Wow on the Monarch count! I thought I was doing will when I counted 10 on my White mistflower yesterday–but 30 is impressive! That project sounds just amazing–that’s the sort of project that every city needs; keep me posted, especially if you’re involved (which, I have a feeling you might be 🙂 ) Osage orange, yes, I’m familiar with it and in fact, considered it for a spot. I never got so far as to check out its availability in a nursery, but its something that is recommended for this area.

      The Texas craglily is a funny story. My first book on native plants was ‘Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region’ by Sally and Andy Wasowski. I thumbed through and read that book from cover to cover. There was a plant in the perennials section and the flower named the very romantic ‘Lila del los llanos’. Sigh. That’s 20-plus years ago that I first learned about it. Fast forward to about 5-6 years ago and I see a plant called ‘Copper Spiders’ sold at Barton Springs Nursery–and I recognize it as at least similar, perhapse a cultivar or hybrid of the poetic ‘Lila de los llanos’. I snagged several of them and in fact, the next year (late summer is when they seem to be available), purchased one or two more. No one there could really tell me anything about them, but I’m fairly sure the ”Lila’ is the same as the ‘Copper’–the scientific names are different, but that doesn’t dissuade me–botanists are always changing names. 🙂 Anyway, they’re reliable fall bloomers and the hummers (until they leave) and bees/butterflies always make visits to the blooms.

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  8. You have such a rich variety of wildflowers and they look quite exotic to me. I love to use native flowers too but the last Ice Age left the UK with a paucity of native flora compared to the rest of Europe or America.

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    • We in North America do enjoy a wide diversity of native flora and more folks are choosing to plant with them. That’s interesting about your lack of native plants, I didn’t know the cause. I know from other UK gardeners that I’ve followed that finding natives in the commercial trade is tricky. I remember that at one of my visits to Kew, seeing a common, almost weedy plant, Texas plant–Lantana (Lantana urticoides) https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=laur2 and chuckling to myself: one person’s weed is another person’s exotic beauty.

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