The Natives are Restless

Native Texas plants are back in action!  March always heralds the time of the natives, and many are eager for the season to begin.  They’re  budding up and blooming out!  It’s true that several of my non-native plants are, or have been, blooming:  irises, poppies, and Mexican honeysuckle.  But this native Texan  appreciates native Texas plants which are lovely and posses the evolutionary chops to weather the weird–no matter the confusion of seasons or the Texas weather patterns.

 

This sweet thing is a hybrid columbine, a cross between the native Aquilegia chrysantha and another native, Aquilegia canadensis.

I grow the two different columbine species in my garden and the plants hybridize with ease, creating a third alternative, with varying color schemes–sometimes more yellow, sometimes more red.  On this particular hybrid, the butter yellow petals and the blushed spurs show off qualities of both types of columbines.

The sunshine-cheery Golden groundselPackera obovata, is modeling its spring wears, though with less oomph than in years past.

There’s still plenty of pop with these diminutive blooms; there’s no denying that yellow is bright.  But last summer, most of the individual plants in my small patch of groundsels succumbed to the heat and drought.  I didn’t realize that the soaker hose buried in this  garden had developed a leak. While a couple of plants not far from the groundsels received good soaks when during their twice per month drink, these poor little things got none of the wet stuff.  That garden boo-boo occurred during an especially hot and dry spell in August and September, and it wasn’t until the rains returned and the temperatures softened that I discovered that there were few remaining groundsels.

I don’t know if these other rosettes will produce bloom stalks this spring–time will tell–but I’ll certainly keep a better eye on things next summer.  Golden groundsel is a tough native plant which doesn’t need babying,  but two months with no water and hot temperatures is a bit too much to ask of them.  It’s a wonder there are any left!

 

This terra-cotta beauty is the bloom of the CrossvineBignonia capreolata.  

This individual vine grows in shade, up a fence, only producing a few blooms each spring.  Directly across from this vine, at the opposite end of my garden, grows a second Crossvine, also along a fence.  That second Crossvine receives much more sunshine, making many more blooms.  For now, all of its blooms are growing over the fence, where my sister-in-law enjoys them.

Oh, well, I’m sure she won’t mind if I walk over to say ‘hi’ to the wayward flowers.

 

Giant spiderwort, Tradescantia giganteaare solid, reliable spring blooming natives, dotting gardens and roadsides with purple-to-pink clusters.  Each new day as I walk my garden, ever more of these purple clusters appear, petals open for whatever pollinators happen by.  Spiderwort can be aggressive, filling a garden with bright color and fleshy green stalks and foliage.  But its pollinator power and luscious color are well-worth tolerating its bullying behavior.  The thuggy individual plants are easy to yank up and give away!

The first blooms of these plants show up on short bloom stalks, but as the days lengthen, the bloom stalks grow taller, in kind.  Many spiderwort plants in my garden reach up to two feet tall.

And, the bloom clusters are stunning.

As Texas ramps up for the new growing season, the natives are restless.  Native plants provide sustenance for wildlife and beauty for gardeners and wildflower watchers.  Native Texas plants–and there are many for every season and every growing situation–are ready to strut their stuff.

Not only do I celebrate blooming native Texas plants, today is Texas Independence Day!   Hats off to the Lone Star State!

Good Morning, Sunshine

Golden groundsel, Packera obovata,  is a yellow-flowered perennial.

Its blooms are not orange-yellow, nor are they yellow-green.

Golden groundsel flowers are yellow.

There’s no ambiguity or ambivalence with these blooms: they are yellow, yellow, yellow.

One of the earliest of the spring bloomers here in the Austin area, this perennial pretty delivers a dab of sunshine to shady spots, and for the remainder of the year, carpets those same shady spots as a hardy ground cover.

I like the foliage.  The base foliage–the leaves that you see for 10 months of the year–are composed of oval, serrated-edged leaves which form a dense mat along the ground.  In late January, early February, the plant sends up slender stems along which grow more deeply lobed leaves.    In essence, the plant produces two styles of foliage.

It’s a plant with a two-for-one set of leaves!

As groundsel gears up for its spring show,  the slender flower stems develop clusters of buds which eventually open with radiant yellow blooms.  Viewing these beauties first thing in the morning is as good a wake-up as any strong cup of coffee.  In a garden or along a trail, you can’t miss these shards of sunshine–they demand attention.  Even before my own little patch of groundsel flowered-up, I’d spied a number of groundsels blooming along some urban trails where I hike.

These flowers are not shy and will not be ignored.

While Golden groundsel isn’t host to any particular insect, the flowers are good nectar sources for native bees and butterflies.  Somehow, I didn’t get any photos of the pollinators on my groundsel blooms, though I observed some tiny native Perdita bees.  In early March, I spotted this hairstreak on a groundsel flower at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

On a petal of the flower just below where  the hairstreak nectars, sits another insect. Bee, beetle, or bug, I can’t discern.

The patch of groundsel was growing in full sun and bloomed much earlier than mine.  On that early March day, the blooms appeared to be nearing the end of their cycle.

Just this week, some of my groundsel flowers have begun to seed out.

Snowy, fuzzy seedheads, clearly designed for wind dispersal, have replaced some of the sunny flowers, and many more will follow in similar fashion.  Golden groundsels are in the Asteraceae family of plants and demonstrate the pappus structure of seed development.  The delicate, hairy attachments carry the actual seed aloft on wind, planting themselves in other places and other gardens for future groundsel goodness.

Many of the native Texas plants that I grow seed out prolifically, but not the Golden groundsel.  Even though I allow mine to seed out, I’ve never found any groundsel seedlings in other parts of my garden.  What I have noticed is that my patch is leaning toward its neighbor, a group of iris, as the groundcover part of the plant is steadily creeping into their space.

Or perhaps, it’s the iris which are marching toward the groundsel.  Either way, I plan to expand the range of my groundsel. The groundsel leaves, presumably with roots attached, are outgrowing the original area that I devoted to it.  In late summer or early fall–once we’re out of our tough Texas summer–I’ll remove several of the abutting iris to make room for the groundsel plants.  I love my iris and they bloom for a longer time, but I have plenty of iris in my garden and not nearly enough Golden groundsel.  By transplanting a few more groundsel plants, I’ll welcome to more in my garden.

Native to Central Texas, Golden groundsel enjoys a wide distribution throughout North America.  As long as you can find seeds or plants, there’s no reason not to enjoy this lovely plant.  It’s a tough, easy-to-grow perennial with a bright disposition.

Just remember to don your sunglasses when they start blooming.

Cousins!

Spring just isn’t spring in my garden without the sunshine-cheery Golden groundselPackera obovata. 

The small patch has grown from two, four-inch pot sized plants popped into the ground four or five years ago to a respectable sized carpet with a seasonal  yellow flourish.  Also called Roundleaf goundsel, Roundleaf ragwort, and Squawweed, this native North American perennial is an excellent shade-loving ground-cover.  The foliage is attractive year-round  and the happy daisy flowers brighten the late winter/early spring garden.

In recent weeks and at the opposite end of my property from the groundsel, I’ve watched a singular plant growing in the middle of a mulched pathway.   The foliage is certainly interesting, but unfamiliar.

I enjoy surprises in the garden (well, not all of them…), so I decided I’d keep–or not–the plant once it bloomed and I could better identify it.  Well, the mystery plant has finally unfurled its flowers.

Clearly, this pretty is a relative of the Golden groundsel, though obviously a different sub-species.  I checked the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Database and it didn’t take long to discover that it is a ButterweedPackera glabella.  Also called Cress-leaf groundsel and Yellowtop (my favorite), it evokes the same spirit of spring as its cousin, the Golden groundsel.

The flowers are almost identical.

Yellowtop (Packera glabella)

Golden groundsel (Packera obovata)

 

Both plants exhibit interesting foliage.  The Golden’s base foliage is oval (thus the  ’round-leaf’ in several of its common names) and finely serrated.  Its bloom-stalk foliage is more lance-like and deeply lobed.

The Yellowtop’s foliage is also rounded and deeply lobed, but with smooth perimeters. The differential in leaf color between the two plants is primarily because of light and the different times of day that I shot the photos, though the Yellowtop is a smidge lighter green than the Golden groundsel.

I have no idea where this single Yellowtop came from and especially in the spot in which it grows.  While the Golden groundsel prefers shade (mine gets a bit of afternoon sun) and is a perennial evergreen, the Yellowtop is an annual which thrives in either sun or shade.  The LBJWC says that it is a prolific re-seeder and I hope they’re right because I’d love more of this little spring thing sprinkled in my gardens next year.

All in the family:  plant cousins book-ending my home garden–Golden groundsel,

…and Yellowtop.

Hello Spring!