I read that Elbow Bush is a good nectar source for bees and butterflies in late winter and early spring and birds are supposed to eat the the fruit, so I decided I had to have one for my backyard wildlife habitat. Actually, I needed two plants because the plants are dioecious. There are separate male and female plants and I would need both for fruit.
I picked up one at a nursery a few weeks ago during an end of season clearance sale. It would have been nice to know the sex of the plants I was browsing, but they were all just a bunch of twigs. No leaves or fruit. My main interest at the time was locating a live plant.
Good news! The plant I selected was alive and started blooming a few weeks after planting. After studying the flowers, I decided I had a male plant.
Botany Lesson One: The yellow structures sticking out of the flowers are called the stamens. The long part of the stamen is the filament and the oval part on the end is the anther where pollen is produced.
Since my Elbow Bush was blooming, the remaining plants at the nursery were probably in bloom as well so I went back to see if I could locate a companion for my plant. Magnifying glass in hand and probably looking a bit silly, I examined the flowers on the Elbow Bushes at the nursery. I thought the flowers looked different from the flowers on my plant, so I took a chance and bought another plant.
More good news! My second elbow bush was a female.
Botany Lesson Two: The structures sticking out of these flowers are called carpels. The end is called the stigma and collects pollen from the male flower. The tube leading to the swollen part is called the style and the swollen parts in the middle are the ovaries. If pollinated, the ovaries will eventually turn into dark purple fruit. (I think I identified all of these flower parts correctly.)
It turned out that I must have picked the only male plant in the group when I bought my first Elbow Bush. I think I will go back for one more female plant to finish off my Elbow Bush thicket. Here is a link to photos of Elbow Bush through various seasons.
Meanwhile, this warm winter is heralding other signs of spring at least a month early.
Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, is forming some flower stalks.
Rock penstemon, Penstemon baccharifolius, is trying to bloom as is the Salvia greggii.
Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua, is putting out new leaves.
Four nerve daisies, Tetraneuris scaposa, have bloomed non-stop this winter.
It is hard to believe that a year ago, yesterday, the prairie was covered in snow.