Master Naturalists: Flowering natives are special
Aug. 18, 2010 at 3:18 a.m.
By Paul and Mary Meredith
Flowering native plants are some of our favorites. We've developed very special interests in three of the flowering natives we grow. They are sundial bluebonnet, standing winecup and lila de los llanos. None of them are prolific in the wild in Texas. That's probably encouraged our accepting opportunities to become more involved with them.
SUNDIAL BLUEBONNET (LUPINUS PERENNIS)
Lupinus perennis has numerous common names. Just a few are wild perennial lupin, sundial lupin, Indian beet and old maid's bonnets. In eastern states, where it's more common in the wild than it is in Texas, it's also known as sundial bluebonnet. In Texas, it's only been documented in the wild twice. One time was in the Big Thicket National Preserve just a few years ago; the other was in 1931 in Orange County. Definitely not common in Texas. But it's the one of the six Texas State Flowers, and it's one of the two perennial ones.
We found some L. perennis seeds to buy last spring and are working on growing them. Normally, it grows in very different conditions from what we have. It likes dry, sandy soil, which is acidic or neutral. But it's also known to be adaptable. Growing it will be a real challenge.
Winecup has several "standing" species. Another common name for winecup is Texas poppy mallow. It can be low-growing or erect (standing). Standing winecups are less common than low-growing ones. There are several species of standing winecups. One's endangered (Callirhoe scabriuscula). It grows in Coke, Mitchell and Runnels counties, in the upper Colorado River watershed.
The one we're growing is Callirhoe pedata, formerly Callirhoe digitata. Two Houston friends - wholesale nursery folks and columnists for The Houston Chronicle among others - got us involved. We joined other people around Texas who are growing standing winecup. We're purposely scattered around Texas to provide seeds from different growing conditions, to prevent any area losing their stands of C. pedata. Since April, Paul's harvested many tiny seeds from our standing winecups' seed pods, and they're still blooming. He harvests the pods before they're dry enough to distribute their seeds all over our yard. "Distribution" time comes when the pods are dry. They pop and spew their seeds everywhere, just like bluebonnets and some other natives do. Standing winecups produce blooms (thus seed pods) as long as they have enough moisture. We don't know yet when they'll stop blooming.
LILA DE LOS LLANO, ITS RELATIVES
Our third special flowering native plant is Echeandia chandleri, commonly called - among other things - lila de los llanos. It's easy to get confused reading about it. That's because it was once the only Echeandia in south coastal Texas. So everything written then about Echeandias in that area talked about E. chandleri. But E. texensis was described in 1999, and it's called lila de los (or las) lomas, and several other names. Still more confusion arises from the fact that their habitats are mostly the same. Plus, they're only slightly different in botanical details, not what we everyday plant people are used to detecting. To top it off, at least two more similar-looking Echeandias from other areas get confused with E. chandleri and E. texensis. Definitely confusing. We have lila de los llanos.
Their common habitat is grasslands and openings in subtropical woodlands and brush, on clay soils. They're common in windblown saline clay on lomas near the mouth of the Rio Grande in Cameron County. E. chandleri (ours) also grows in a few upland coastal prairie remnants, on clay soil, well to the north - in Kleberg and Nueces counties.
We bought our three lila de los llanos plants at a native plant sale several years ago, then transplanted them into a single 16-inch pot, where they're still growing. This past winter they twice survived 18 degrees, and they've been blooming since April. Paul's harvesting their seeds also. When we bought ours, some seedlings weren't sold. We took them for folks who would grow them, gather their seeds, and pass the seeds along to folks who would continue this sharing. The staff at "Kika" de la Garza Plant Materials Center (at Texas A & M University - Kingsville) were working to help protect this rare species. If something happens to the wild population, survivors under cultivation will continue it. We donated about 50 seedlings to the Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG). They are prospering there.
The Welder Wildlife Foundation is hosting a Deer Management 101: Enhancing Deer Habitat workshop on Sept. 11. Assisting with the workshop will be Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Nature Conservancy, and Texas Agrilife Extension. The purpose of the workshop is to provide information on the nutritional needs of deer for body growth and antler development and the important native plants available on rangelands to meet these needs. Discussions will provide information on tools such as mechanical, chemical, grazing, and fire to enhance deer habitat. We will also discuss how to manage hunters to increase deer antler size and to reach deer management goals. Cost is $20 and will include lunch, breaks and handouts. There will be at least two CEU available for this workshop.
RSVP by sending your name, contact information, and fee to: Dr. Terry Blankenship, Welder Wildlife Foundation, P.O. Box 1400, Sinton, TX 78387.
Paul and Mary Meredith are master naturalists. Contact them at email@example.com.