Texas Native Plant Week

The third week of October is Texas Native Plant Week.  School children and their teachers, native plant organizations, and individual gardeners are encouraged to learn about and then plant natives in eagerly awaiting gardens.  Aside from their beauty, native plants are a snap to grow with our capricious Texas weather patterns and difficult soils.  Native plants also provide sustenance and protection for endemic and migrating wildlife; diversity in all forms improves when gardeners go native in their landscapes.  Throughout the year and in every part of Texas, native plants are a key driver for conservation of our unique natural landscapes.

If you don’t live in Texas, celebrate the native plants of your region by growing natives in your garden and encouraging neighborhood and school groups to do the same.

Below are but a few of the native plants that I grow in my garden.  Many are passalong plants, shared with me by keen and generous gardeners.  Some are plants that I started from seeds, testing my gardener’s patience as I’m always excited to see how something fares as it grows and matures.  A couple of these plants appeared–unplanned, but very welcomed–by serendipitous acts of birds or the wind.  Many of these plants were purchased at Austin’s awesome locally owned nurseries.  All of these plants grow with little effort and less water than what a typical lawn demands. Ease of endeavor notwithstanding, my garden is alive with pollinator and bird activity, which is how a garden should exist.

No matter where you live and even if some of your plants’ ancestors hail from far away places, make room in your plot of the Earth for native plants.  You’ll help heal the world substantially, by conserving water and natural habitat, and by increasing local diversity of plants and wildlife.

Native plants are beautiful and belong where you live and garden.

Spring:

Pipevine Swallowtail on a Giant spiderwort (Tradescantia gigantea)

Southern Pink Moth on a Lyreleaf sage (Salvia lyrata).

Yellow columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha)

Honeybee working a Gulf coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis).

White avens (Geum canadense)

 

Late spring, early summer:

Blue curls (Phacelia congesta)

Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

 

Summer:

Big red sage (Salvia pentstemonoides) and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Big red sage, bog plant Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), with  non-native waterlily, ‘Colorado’.

Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) and Yarrow

Drummond’s ruellia (Ruellia drummondiana) with attendant Carpenter bee.

Henry Duelberg sage (Salvia farenacia) and nectaring Eufala skipper.

White tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

Red tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis) bloom spikes

 

Autumn:

Fruits of Pigeonberry

Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)

Texas craglily (Echeandia texensis)

Lindheimer’s muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)

Inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Foliage of Texas red oak (Quercus texana).

 

Winter:

Possumhaw holly (Ilex decidua)

Ice formations in the stems of Frostweed (Verbesina virginica).

Seed heads of Frostweed, with bare stems of Red oak tree to the left, and Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata) to the right.

Winged, and Other Things: Wildlife Wednesday, September 2018

Just a quick howdy do!  for September’s Wildlife Wednesday, recapping a few flitting winged things from this past month.  August is typically hot and quiet, but the garden and its inhabitants remain full of energy and life, even when the gardener drags.

For this whole growing season, I haven’t snagged one good photo of my favorite native bee, the Horsefly-like Carpenter beeXylocopa  tabaniformis.

Bee butt-view on a Turk’s cap bloom.

There are many of these busily buzzing, nectar-stealing carpenter bees in my garden, but this is the best shot I’ve managed this year.  I’m either too slow with the click, or choose a ridiculously windy day to shoot, or am distracted and lose sight of my subject.  The bees keep their cool though, working the garden, laying eggs for the next generation, and taunting the gardener with their charm. There’s still plenty of time to work on attaining some decent photos before the days are significantly shortened and these bees bed down for winter.  Stay tuned!

I’m continuing to enjoy the Turk’s cap visits of several Southern Carpenter beesXylocopa micans.

Like the Horsefly-like carpenter bees, the Southern Carpenter bees nectar-steal and favor Turk’s caps blooms, though I have also seen them at the brilliantly blue, Majestic sage blooms.

These bees are so large, they are easy to spot in the garden, even from a distance.

 

The big butterflies are now more common, as is typical for the late summer.  This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus, nectared at the dramatic flowers on one of my Mexican Orchid trees, which is a favorite of a variety of bees and butterflies.

 

It took me some time perusing Austin area iNaturalist photos to identify this emerging moth as a Virginia creeper SphinxDarapsa myron.

Top-view,

…and the underside.

I love his/her little face and tiny chocolate-drop eyes.  Some bird-delivered Virginia creeper (the host plant for this moth), growing in my back garden, was probably the food source for the moth in larval stage.  This adult emerged in late afternoon from a chrysalis situated on a branch of a Drummond’s ruellia.

 

The dragons and damsels zoom throughout my garden, but perch near the pond.  I think this is a female Dusky DancerArgia translata.  

The damsel was in nearly constant motion and I took the photo at a distance, so for identification purposes, the photo is not as clear as I’d like.   The Dusky Dancer is a common predator and widespread in Texas.  The purple eyes are a marked feature for this particular species, so I’m reasonably confident I got this right.

 

This Pipevine SwallowtailBattus philenor, has certainly seen better days.

I’m now growing pipevine plant and am enjoying more of these beauties as they float through the garden.

 

Early one morning I caught this fella nectaring on the salmon blooms of one of my Red Yucca plants.

This Leptoglossus phyllopus is one of the many leaf-footed bugs common in this region and they do fly.

 

No wings here, but the look on Mr. Green Anole suggests he’s weary of summer and ready for autumn.  Or, maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing.

Yeah, that’s it.

I love these little guys and gals and they’ll be around until our chill arrives, which is months away.

What’s in your garden as we wrap up summer?  Please share your critter happenings and don’t forget to leave a link to your post.  Happy wildlife gardening!

The Purpling

Days are noticeably shorter now in late August.  Darkness greets my morning alarm and birds are quiet until well after I’m up and about.  Nightfall appears earlier, much more than a mere few weeks ago.  Autumn is palpable, though certainly not with cooler temperatures, at least not here in Central Texas.  Our daily (today marked number 43) century-plus numbers are still in play, but seasonal change is afoot.

This cluster of beauty berries showcases the transformation from green to purple.  The bird poop on the leaves is extra decoration.

In the last couple of weeks, the American beautyberryCallicarpa americana, has slipped out of its summer wardrobe and donned its hooray for autumn swag.  Eye-candy for the gardener and nutritious fruits for birds, the green, clustered drupes, grown since June from the remains of dainty pink blooms, have morphed to brilliant, metallic purple berries.

Green fruits,

…to purple.

This particular shrub in my back garden is about 3 years old and finally exhibiting its graceful arching form.

Berries are cream-to-green, but purple-up over 7-10 days .  Triggered by the maturity of the drupe (and maybe light?), it’s a seasonal change I look forward to each hot August.

It gives me hope for the autumn to come.

Berries gather like bunches of party balloons along the branches of the shrub, the purple overwhelming the green, ready to pop in some lucky bird’s beak.

 

This beautyberry will grow larger, eventually filling the area of this small garden.

 

This beautyberry is the same age as the one above, but I transplanted it to a different spot in my front garden exactly one year ago.

Beautyberry is a good shade plant, though this one receives more sun than the back garden beautyberry. I’ve noticed that it’s grown more quickly, but has also required more water.  In fact, the slight droop of the leaves in this photo indicates a thirsty plant.  Since June, I’ve watered this shrub once per week, significantly more than the back garden beautyberry, which grows in shade.

In my garden, Blue Jays and Mockingbirds are the main consumers of these berries.  Some years, the beautyberry greedy birds descend and devour the berries just as they turn color; other years, the berries remain on the shrub well into winter, the birds obviously getting sustenance somewhere else.

And that’s fine with me.

I prefer those years when the birds let me enjoy the beauty of the berries, at least for a time.