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Plant of the Month: Flame Acanthus

Archive for the ‘Plant of the Month’ Category

Plant of the Month: Flame Acanthus

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Flame Acanthus is a small to medium spreading shrub, 3’ – 5’ tall, found naturally in the southern part
of the Edwards Plateau (Uvalde County) and west Texas (Brewster County). In the wild it occurs in dry rocky soils in the floodplains of streams and other shrublands. Very heat and drought tolerant, it begins blooming in late spring or early summer and continues on into the fall with red to orange tubular flowers that are favorites of hummingbirds. Like many xeric plants, occasional rains increase the number of blooms. In addition to feeding hummingbirds, it is a host plant for the attractive Crimson Patch butterfly.

Flame Acanthus is an attractive ornamental that will readily take to a sunny, exposed site with poor soil. However, it is tolerant of a wide range of conditions, and will thrive in clay soil if it is well drained.

It will also grow in light shade, but flowering will be reduced. Its drought tolerance makes it a good patio pot plant. When given favorable conditions, it can reseed aggressively. It is cold tolerant but may die back somewhat in a cold winter. Late winter pruning will eliminate dead branches and will also create a bushier plant with increased blooms. Flame Acanthus can be started from fresh seed or cuttings. It is available in nurseries specializing in native plants, and is reportedly deer resistant.

Text by John Siemssen, Photos by Joseph A. Marcus, Wildflower Center and aprairiehaven.com

Plant of the Month: Lindheimer’s Morning Glory

Monday, April 18th, 2016

morning-glory

Lindheimer’s Morning Glory is a long blooming, perennial vine of Central and West Texas. It is related to the commonly cultivated Morning Glory species from tropical regions of the Americas, generally grown as annuals in our area. Our native species is more cold hardy, and grows as a deciduous perennial vine. It likes full sun, and although it is generally tolerant of dry conditions it responds well to supplemental water during droughts.

Lindheimer’s Morning Glory has 2″ to 3″ faintly fragrant sky blue flowers from April through October. Like other Morning Glories, they open in the morning and close by mid-day. The vine can grow to 6′ and is trailing or climbing depending on where it is grown. In its native habitat it is found in rocky soils, in draws or ravines. Because deer will eat the foliage, it may be found growing among other protective plants where deer are present.

Plants may be found in nurseries that specialize in natives and are worth seeking out. The seed can be hard to find commercially, but it can readily be grown from collected seeds. Plants started from seed will generally bloom the second season.

2016 marks the 215th anniversary of Ferdinand Lindheimer’s birth in 1801. Lindheimer, an early resident of New Braunfels, is known as the ‘Father of Texas Botany.’ He collected many specimen of previously unknown plants in Central Texas, and today over 40 plants bear his name.

Text and Photos by John Siemssen.
NPSOT meeting information and previous Plants of the Month can be found on the Lindheimer Chapter Website.

Plant of the Month: Mexican Feathergrass

Monday, November 16th, 2015

mexican-feathergrassMexican Feathergrass is an attractive, ornamental landscape plant, native to West Texas and other parts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico. Interestingly, it is also found in Argentina and Chile with no native populations between the two ranges. In its native habitat it’s found in open woods on rocky flats and slopes in well drained soils.

Mexican Feathergrass forms soft bunches, about 1′ to 2′ tall. It makes an interesting, low growing landscape plant, either singly as an accent, or when planted in groupings. The soft grass blades move in the wind, creating an attractive effect. It prefers full sun but tolerates part shade.

Good drainage is a must, and it will rot if given too much water. Like many native grasses, it will go dormant during summer droughts and during the winter, turning a warm golden color.

Mexican Feathergrass will reseed in good conditions. The seedlings can be easily removed or transplanted. If desired, dead leaves can be cut back in mid winter, although this is not necessary. It is highly deer resistant.

Note: Mexican Feathergrass is a NPSOT NICE! selection for Summer, 2015.

mex-feathergrass-map

Text by John Siemssen. Photo by Sally and Andy Wasowski, Wildflower Center.
NPSOT meeting information and previous Plants of the Month can be found on the Lindheimer Chapter Website

Plant of the Month: Texas White Honeysuckle

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Texas white honeysuckle

Texas White Honeysuckle is perhaps best described as a climbing shrub. In the landscape, it can be grown as a 4′ bush, trained as an espalier on a trellis, or allowed to naturally cascade down a bank or retaining wall. However it is grown, it will produce yellowish white blooms in the spring
which are followed by clusters of orange red fruit. It remains evergreen in mild winters.
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Plant of the Month: Anacacho Orchid Tree

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Anacacho Orchid Tree

The Anacacho Orchid Tree is a small tree or multi-trunked shrub, 6′ to 12′ tall. Although uncommon in the wild, it can generally be found at nurseries that carry native plants. Its common name stems from the area where it is found growing naturally: the Anacacho Mountains of the western Edwards Plateau, where it is found growing in canyons and arroyos, primarily in Kinney County and a few other spots in Texas and northeast Mexico.
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Plant of the Month: Texas Sotol

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

texassotol

Texas Sotol is an attractive desert perennial often mistaken for a yucca. It has a long, dark bluish-green blade-like leaves with sharp, toothed edges. Its basal leaves grow 3′ – 4′ tall. In early summer it sends up a 9′-15′ flower stalk, bearing a 2′-3′ spike of yellowish flowers at the end. Sotol occurs in Central and West Texas in various habitats from prairies and plains to flat desert areas. It needs full sun, good drainage and is very drought tolerant.

The dried flower stalks have been used as a renewable building material for temporary corrals, etc., and the leaves have been used for thatching and also to make baskets. Native Americans and early Texas settlers used Sotol as a food source. The bulb like root was cooked, sun dried and then ground into a flour, which, when mixed with water, was formed into little cakes that were baked. In times of drought the heart of the plant splits open, exposing the soft interior, providing food for deer and javalenas.

Sotol is a good xeriscape plant for rock gardens. It combines naturally with rocks, curly mesquite grass, and low-growing drought-tolerant plants such as damianita and blackfoot daisy. Linheimer muhly is a nice contrast when planted nearby. Give it plenty of room to show at its best. Sotol makes a great barrier plant and is a good substitute for Pampas grass. It can be grown in large containers. Removed old flower stalks at the base. It is highly deer resistant.

Note: Crossvine is a NPSOT NICE! selection for Summer 2014.

Text by John Siemssen. Photos by Joseph A. Marcus, Wildflower Center

Plant of the Month: Crossvine

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

crossvine

Crossvine (bignonia capreolata) is a plant for a large space. It will grow to 50’ or more, climbing by means of tendrils. These have small “claws” at the end which allow the vine to cling to stone or brick without any additional support. Its main attraction is the trumpet shaped flowers which appear in the spring and can completely cover the vine. These can be red with a yellow throat, yellow with a red throat or combinations of these colors. The vines are evergreen through most of Texas. The dark green leaves take on a purplish tinge in winter.

Crossvine is native from East Texas to Florida. In its natural locations it grows at the edge of moist woodlands, but it adapts to other situations as well. It will succeed in Blackland Prairie clay or limestone soils, although in the latter case it may take a few years for it to become fully established and vigorous. It will bloom best if planted in full sun, although it can tolerate part shade. In full sun, Crossvine benefits from some extra water and organic soil enrichment.

The trumpet shaped flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, and the vine tends to bloom during the spring migration period. Deer will browse the leaves, so it needs protection until it has grown tall enough to be out of reach.

Note: Crossvine is a NPSOT NICE! selection for Spring 2014.

Text by John Siemssen. Photos by Joseph A. Marcus, Wildflower Center

Plant Of The Month: Mealy Blue Sage

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

mealy blue sage

Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) is a wonderful perennial which blooms from spring to frost, suitable for flower beds, wildflower meadows and patio pots. It grows 2’ to 3’ tall, with a similar spread. The flowers are generally various shades of purple and blue, although a white version is also available. Its name comes from whitish hairs that cover the leaves and stems and give the plant a “mealy” appearance. This can make a nice contrast to darker green leaves of other perennials.
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Plant Of The Month: Pigeonberry

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Pigeonberry makes a wonderful low growing perennial for shady areas. It gets to be about 1 to 1½ feet tall, and blooms from spring into fall. The flowers are pink to white in 2” long spikes. They are followed by bright red, almost translucent fruit that are a favorite food of many birds. The plant is especially attractive when it has both flowers and fruit at the same time.

Pigenberry is found in the shade of trees and shrubs from Florida to Arizona, and north to Oklahoma and Arkansas. While it prefers some moisture, it will survive summer droughts by going dormant, reappearing as fall rains and cooler temperatures revive it. Alternatively, some supplemental water in periods of drought will keep it thriving. In milder areas of South Texas it is an evergreen shrub, although in the colder winters of the Hill Country it will go dormant.

In the landscape, Pigeonberry makes an interesting ground cover and wildlife plant for woodland settings, under shrubs such as American Beautyberry, Red Buckeye or Mountain Sage (Salvia regla). It can be combined with other shade loving perennials such as Turks Cap, native sedges, several types of mistflowers or tropical sage.

While not very common in nurseries, it is sometimes available where native plants are sold. It can also be started from seeds or cuttings. Seeds germinate well but grow slowly at first. The fruit and leaves are reported to be somewhat toxic. Deer will generally leave Pigeonberry alone, unless they are especially hungry.

Plant Of The Month: Frostweed

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Frostweed seems to be a plant that people either hate or love. In semi-shady locations it can spread by rhizomes to form large colonies of coarse looking plants that can get up to 6’ tall.

Some consider this an ugly and invasive weed. However, in late summer it gets large, white flower heads 3” to 6” across that are an important nectar source for fall butterflies, including migrating Monarchs that are returning from the northern US to overwinter in Mexico.

Another interesting characteristic of this plant is a phenomenon that gives it its common name. The sap of the plant freezes near the base of the stem after the first hard freeze of the season, forming interesting shapes that have been variously described as ice ribbons, ice flowers, and ice leaves, among many others. This happens only once in a season, and in order to observe it, one must get out before temperatures rise to above freezing, when the frozen ice melts. A few other species of plants have also been reported to form these ice formations. More information on this phenomenon can be found at: http://w3.biosci.utexas.edu/prc/VEVI3/crystallofolia.html.

Frostweed can serve a useful purpose in the landscape, where it can be used as a transition plant between manicured flower beds and wild areas. Given that it is very drought tolerant and deer resistant, and serves as a beneficial wildlife plant, perhaps it should be loved more than it is.

Text by John Siemssen. Photos by Norman G. Flaigg and Melody Lytle, Wildflower Center


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