Gardening Tips for Growing Texas Native Plants

Gardening Tips for Growing Texas Native Plants

Thomas Adams, botanist for the MidCoast National Wildlife Refuge in Brazoria, Texas

Missed our monthly meeting and featured speaker. No problem… Just watch this video. Join our group of over 4600 viewers that watch our Youtube video channel.

This video gives practical experience growing native plants along the Texas Gulf Coast. The presentation is by Thomas Adams, botanist for the MidCoast National Wildlife Refuge in Brazoria, Texas. He discusses his experience growing the plants in the NPSOT Houston Chapter’s 2017 Wildscapes Workshop and Native Plant Sale that are specially adapted to gulf coast regions and adjacent prairies. Click here for tentative plant list.

Click here to enjoy other native plant presentation’s from our monthly meetings, from our Wildscapes Workshop, on the NPSOT Native Landscaping Certification Program, and special topical native plant and ecological videos from our videographer Niven Saleh.

Tracking Federally-Petitioned Native Plant Species of Texas

Tracking Federally-Petitioned Native Plant Species of Texas

Anna W. Strong describes her work

Missed our monthly meeting and featured speaker. No problem… Just watch this video. Join our group of over 4600 viewers that watch our Youtube video channel. In this video:

Anna W. Strong of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department explains how she tracks rare plant species with field research. This talk was delivered at the July 20, 2017,  chapter meeting of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Houston Chapter.

Click here to enjoy other native plant presentation’s from our monthly meetings, from our Wildscapes Workshop, on the NPSOT Native Landscaping Certification Program, and special topical native plant and ecological videos from our videographer Niven Saleh.

Enjoy!

Houston’s Early-Settlement Flora Can Guide Planting of Your Native Garden

HOUSTON’S EARLY-SETTLEMENT FLORA
CAN GUIDE PLANTING OF YOUR NATIVE GARDEN

By RUSSELL KANE
Technical writer, naturalist at VintageTexas.com
(vintagetexas.com)
& DAN WORRALL
Author & Member, Harris County Historical Commission
(historicalcommission.harriscountytx.gov)

Reprinted from the Lazy Gardener Newsletter edited by Brenda Smith

Many people see the “wild and natural” disappearing around them and want to “grow native”, but have problems finding their inspirational “seed” to get them started with native plant gardening.

One suggestion is to literally take pages out of history from the writings of early settlers, travelers and naturalists that documented their experiences in our prairies, forests and riparian bottomlands. You can derive your inspiration from their observations.

In early-settlement times, most villages and other settlements on Buffalo, Braes and White Oak Bayou were in a forest wilderness. In 1840, early Houston-resident George Bonnell wrote about this area as being a virgin forest with “pine, oak, ash, hickory, mulberry, and cypress trees.” If you need a tree for your “nativescape”, what Bonnell saw can give you direction. A good start is to go with our hardy and wildlife-friendly native oaks like the Bur, Nuttall and Swamp Chestnut Oaks.

In the 1830s, naturalist Thomas Drummond traveled west from Galveston exploring riparian regions of the Texas river bottomlands. There, he found Turk’s Cap, a highly versatile spreading shrub with bright-red, hibiscus-like flowers. It handles sun, shade, wet and dry, and can fit into your native landscape as a tall shrub, or shortened to a hedge of multiple plants, or trimmed down to a tall ground cover.

Arthur Ikin and Ferdinand Roemer came to our region in the 1840s and archived observations of native prairies and wildflowers. Ikin expressed, “In spring and summer, the whole country, hill, wood and prairie presents the appearance of a vast flower garden.” Roemer wrote of the breathtaking vastness of the Texas prairies calling them “oceans of grass” with “tall grass covering the flat surface as far as the eye can see”.

Unfortunately, less than 1 percent of the once nine million acres of coastal prairie from Iklin’s and Roemer’s day remains. However, a rare place like nearby 51-acre Deer Park Prairie offers local gardeners a palette of native gardening ideas. Over 300 varieties of native plants and grasses have grown there since settlement times. Some of these legacy species include: grassy plants like Little Blue Stem, Gulf Muhly and Cherokee Sedge; colorful forbs like Blue Mistflower, Prairie Blazing Star, Texas Coneflower. Missouri Ironweed, and Swamp Sunflower; Green Milkweed; and woody plants like Wax Myrtle. Click here for a list of native plant species in the Deer Park Prairie.

You can speak further with Russ & Dan or at:
SAT., SEPT. 9: WILDSCAPES WORKSHOP & NATIVE PLANT SALE, 8am-3:30pm, Houston Community College, 5601 West Loop South. Native Plant Society of Texas-Houston Chapter event. $40 Aug. 26, $50 after. Register: npsot.org/wp/houston/wildscapes-workshop/

Fireflies: Glowing, Glowing, Gone!

Photo credit: Ben Pfeiffer (firefly.org)

Fireflies: Glowing, Glowing, Gone!

by Ben Pfeiffer.

Reprinted from the Lazy Gardener Newsletter edited by Brenda Smith.

Gardeners often don’t realize gardens make for great firefly habitat, helping to replace lost natural habitat. The common firefly — the Big Dipper firefly (Photinus pyralis) — readily takes to an organic habitat. The trick is to make your garden as inviting as possible for fireflies to take up residence.

Gardens are meccas for food fireflies eat. If you have fought off snails, slugs, various insects, worms then fireflies can lend a hand by helping to control these pests.

Fireflies spend up to 95% of their lives in larval stages. They live in soil/mud/leaf litter and spend from 1-2 years growing until finally pupating to become adults. This entire time they eat anything they can find. As adults, they only live 2-4 weeks. Females that have mated successfully need a place to lay eggs. They will lay eggs in many spots, but gardens offer an oasis with a source of soil moisture good for larval development.

Some inventive tips for attracting fireflies:

  • Don’t rake leaves and put them on the curb. You are raking up firefly larvae and throwing them away.
  • Collect bags of leaves to make “Bag Compost”. Collect 5-15 bags.
    Wet bags down in a shady lawn area. Keep moist/wet for 3-6 months or up to a year.
  • Bags will attract snails/slugs. This is food for growing fireflies.
    In Spring, put bag compost in your garden. Put it in mounds and till it into your soil.
  • Repeat each year. It might take as long as 5 years, or as quick as that same year, to get fireflies in your garden.
  • Fireflies in larvae stage need to eat. Favorite food: snails and slugs.Other ways to help attract fireflies:
  • Assess your soil health
  • If you have poor soil, introduce nutrients such as bag compost, leaves.
    Till your soil. Tilling adds some aeration and prevents soil from compacting.
  • Avoid use of broad spectrum pesticides, especially lawn chemicals.
    Turn off outside lights and advocate for local “Dark Skies” policies to control light pollution.
  • Buy land to protect species.
  • Let log and leaf litter accumulate. Segment an area of your land/yard to remain in a natural state.
  • Plant trees and native grasses. Grasses and forbs help retain soil moisture.
  • Don’t over-mow your lawn.
    — — — — — — — — — —
    Contact Ben through firefly.org or talk with him in person at:

Ben Pfeiffer will be speaking SAT., SEPT. 9: WILDSCAPES WORKSHOP & NATIVE PLANT SALE 8am-3:30 pm, Houston Community College, 5601 West Loop South. Native Plant Society of Texas-Houston Chapter event. $40 Aug. 26, $50 after.
Register: npsot.org/wp/houston/wildscapes-workshop/
(space limited — register early)

Video: NPSOT Houston June Plant of the Month – Powdery Thalia

Video: NPSOT Houston June Plant of the Month – Powdery Thalia

What you don’t know about this local native plant? Bet you’ve seen it around our local swamps,
marshes, ditches, and water’s edge. Listen to NPSOT Houston Chapter member Katy Emde’s presentation from our June 15th meeting on Powdery Thalia (Thalia dealbata).

Listen to NPSOT Houston Chapter member Katy Emde’s presentation from our June 15th meeting on Powdery Thalia.

Video: “Water U” Doing Houston? – Water Conservation, Rain Harvesting, and Rain Gardens

Video: “Water U” Doing Houston? – Water Conservation, Rain Harvesting, and Rain Gardens

Didn’t get to the NPSOT Houston Chapter monthly meeting on June 15th or just want to hear/see it again? No problem.

Watch the above video of Daniel Cunningham, Horticulturist, Water University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Dallas, Texas give his June meeting presentation on this exciting, interesting and very timely topic.

Houston is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and has one of the most complex water systems. In order to meet the demands of a growing population, a quarter of Texas’ future water needs is planned to be met through conservation. This program addresses the critical need for conservation in the Houston area with a whole systems approach to water budgeting, incorporating practical solutions to manage water during flood or drought. The presentation will focus on Native Plant Selection, Indoor and Outdoor Water Conservation, Rainwater Harvesting, Rain Gardens, Drip Irrigation, and New Water Conserving Technologies adaptable to the gulf coast region.

About the speaker:

As a Horticulturalist with Water University, Daniel Cunningham addresses professionals and the public to provide the most sustainable information about landscape water use from design and plant selection to water conserving landscape management practices. Daniel specializes in Texas native plants, vegetable gardening, edible landscaping and rainwater harvesting. He also frequently forages for his own food and provides information for developing wildlife-friendly landscapes. Daniel received a B.S. in Environmental Horticulture with a minor in Natural Resource Management from Texas Tech University.

We Won Most # Species: City Nature Challenge

We Won!
Greater Houston WON Most Species Found
During City Nature Challenge, April 14-18

Thanks to all the 417 people in greater Houston who posted to iNaturalist during the City Nature Challenge 2017, the answer to the Challenge’s question “Which City Can Find the Most Nature?” is Greater Houston! We not only won in Texas, we won in the entire country with an offical tally of 2419 species posted – just 18 more than Austin, with which we were neck and neck on the last day! Dallas won the most observations posted and Los Angelos won most number of people posting. We won the MOST IMPORTANT CATEGORY and were in the top five in the other two categories.

The person in greater Houston who posted the most observations is NPSOT-H’s Kelly Walker. Second is Andy Newman of Harris County Flood Control. The two who posted the most number of species are first Andy Newman and second, Jed Aplaca of Natural Resources Manager of Houston Park and Recreation Department. Come to the meeting on Thursday and meet Andy Newman, who will be making a special request to us.

Also, Jed Aplaca will be teaching “a free plant identification training course this month. This three day training will focusing on characteristics of plant families and how to identify common native and non-native species found within the Houston area. Classroom sessions and field identification will be provided each day: Training Dates: May 24, 2017 9am to 12pm; May 31, 2017 9am to 12pm; June 7, 2017 9am to 12pm… Space is limited. Please register here to reserve your spot.”

Most of us already knew that greater Houston is incredibly diverse with our coastal prairie, seashore, coastal marches and wetlands, piney woods and forests, and riparian habitats. Now the entire nation knows, thanks to all those who participated in this year’s challenge. Please sharpen your skills for next year, when the City Nature Challenge goes international! Tip for next year: Jaime Gonzalez noted that no one took the Bolivar Ferry this year and posted dolphin as a species!

Missed the March Meeting? Check out Videos on Monarchs and Mexican Plum

Mexican Plum

Missed the March Meeting? Check out Videos on Monarchs and Mexican Plum

Thanks to the videographic skills of Houston Chapter member Nivien Saleh, we have videos of the two presentations from the March 2017 meeting that featured the following presentations:

Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas – Creating a Monarch Waystation by Cathy Downs

Texas provides critical habitat on the primary migration pathway of Monarchs to and from their wintering grounds in Mexico. The availability of spring native milkweed host plants, essential to assure successive generations continuing north, has declined in Texas along the migratory flyway. Abundant fall nectar plants, essential for increasing fat content for the long overwintering period of Monarchs heading south for the winter, have also declined. This has happened through development and agricultural practices as well as other issues. Learn how Texans can help in the effort to create and restore Monarch habitat.

Cathy Downs has worked with butterfly conservation and habitat since she became a Hill Country Chapter Master Naturalist in 2005. She partnered with Monarch Watch as a Monarch Conservation Specialist in 2012. Cathy currently chairs the Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas (BBMT) program for Native Plant Society of Texas (www.npsot.org) and is a certified Monarch Larval Monitoring Project educator (www.mlmp.org).

Plant of the Month – Mexican Plum (Prunus Mexicana) with presentation by James Holmes

This is the common wild plum of the forest-prairie border from Missouri and eastern Kansas
to Texas. The fruit can be eaten fresh and can be made into preserves. The fruit is also consumed by birds and mammals.This species has served as a stock for grafting cultivated varieties of plums.

Video – Texas Native Grapes: Characteristics, History and Their International Significance


Video – Texas Native Grapes: Characteristics, History and Their International Significance

Presentation by Dr. Russell D. Kane, VintageTexas at the NPSOT Houston Chapter February Meeting

It is said that Texas is home to more varieties of native grape vines than any other state. Dr. Kane’s presentation highlights the characteristics of Texas and its native grapes. It also addresses how, in the late 1800s, Texas native grape species were utilized by horticulturalist Thomas Volney Munson from Denison to offer a solution to one of the greatest agricultural devastations of all time caused by the infestation of Phylloxera vastatrix in European vineyards.

Dr. Russell Kane is an internationally recognized scientist and an award-winning Texas writer, author and wine aficionado. His bestselling book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine was released by Texas Tech Press in 2012, and Texas Hill Country Wineries – a pictorial history and wine trail guide of the Texas Hill Country Wineries was released in 2015 by Arcadia Publications.

 

 

#TXplants Twitter Event Features WATER & NATIVE PLANTS

Green roofs, Rainwater harvesting, Water smart gardening, rain gardens.

#TXplants Twitter Event Features WATER & NATIVE PLANTS 

Where: On Social Media Platform Twitter (click here) 

When: Monday, March 13, 2017, 7-8 pm CT on Twitter 

How: Search/Follow hashtag #TXplants (click here)

The third #TXplants Twitter event will be held Monday evening March 13th 7-8 pm CT and will focus on all things related to water & native plants:

  • Water smart gardens
  • Green roofs
  • Rain gardens
  • Swales
  • Rain water harvesting
  • Flood prevention
  • Native plants and prairies

Daniel Cunningham

Our featured Tweeter for this exciting, fast paced event will be Daniel Cunningham, a horticulturalist with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center’s Water University in Dallas, Texas. Daniel will address sustainable landscape water use from design and plant selection to water conserving and landscape management practices. Daniel has a wealth of knowledge specializing in Texas native plants, vegetable gardening, edible landscaping and rainwater harvesting.

Sample discussions for this event include:

Active rainwater harvesting – Is it just a drop in the bucket or the “ultimate” water conservation tool? It’s not just the water it saves; it is a teaching tool. People just seem to have this “ah ha” moment after they hook up a barrel and start saving.

Passive rainwater harvesting using rain gardens, bioswales, aka green infrastructure – Daniel believes they are pretty important if not integral parts of the water management solution and promote Texas native plants, too.

Native plants and prairies – Do they offer a way to leverage natural environments for the benefit of flood control? How efficient are they really in terms of rain water holding capacity?

We welcome you to bring your questions for Professor Cunningham and you’re your experiences to share with others.

Access the #TXplants discussion from your Twitter page in your browser or Twitter app on your computer, pad or smartphone. Simply follow or search using this hashtag link #TXplants. Another way to monitor or join in the discussion using TweetChat at: http://tweetchat.com/room/txplants

You can experiment with it now and see who’s there and what they are sharing, and maybe launch off a few preliminary tweets to say hello. Or, for seasoned “twitterers” just show up January 13th 7-8 pm CT and join the Twitter discussion.

We will be joined by fellow NPSOT members and friends of native plants and prairies from across America on Twitter for our upcoming March 13th Also, look for members Bill Hopkins and James Holmes who will be tweeting for the NPSOT state organization and Houston chapter Twitter accounts: @NPSOT@NPSOT_HOU.

We look forward to your participation…mark your calendars for this fun-filled educational event.