Monday, February 6, 2012

Spring Herald

Forestiera pubescens, is an early blooming, deciduous shrub in the olive family and native to this area. One of its common names, Spring Herald, references its early bloom announcing the coming of spring. The shrub is probably more commonly referred to as Elbow Bush which refers to the near 90 degree branching structure of the limbs.

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.

22 comments:

  1. Every season in your garden is fascinating. Great detective work on the plant blooms.

    This winter is so much warmer than last, definitely an early spring on the way.

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    1. Shirley, that is the thing I like most about my garden. Every season is different, even from year to year. I am sure you feel the same about your garden.

      I feel sorry for the people with lawns. The get the green season, the brown season, and maybe a purple and/or yellow season when the henbit and dandelions are in bloom.

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  2. I'm so glad you got both a male and a female on your elbow bush. Sometimes I forget about that! Good botany lessons, too. I have been thinking we're about a month ahead of schedule for spring's arrival. Which is just fine with me, but I hope spring's early arrival doesn't make summer's heat unbearable.

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    1. I hope I got the botany lesson right. It has been a while since I had any botany classes. I had to get a little help from the internet. I hope this week's cooler weather slowed down the growth of our plants. I am concerned we will have a streak of warm weather, lots of plant growth, and then a late season arctic blast. That would not be good for the plants.

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  3. Things coming back....it's always so good to see.

    It is amazing how different this year is to last.

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    1. Linda, you just never know what to expect with Texas weather. Record cold last year, record heat and drought last summer and now a warm winter with a record one day rain in January.

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  4. Wow you've picked the only male one... is this suppose to look like a fortune sign? :) Probably in this case it was!
    Your bush are rather nice considering the time they flowers, they are very similar to some cornus mas (dogwood?) that grow here. That yucca is stunning, its asparagus-like stems look yummy. How log before it flowers?
    Don't you cut the bluestem back? Is it too soon?

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    1. Alberto, it was just luck that I picked up the only male plant or maybe it spoke to me? I thought the yucca flower stalks looked like yucca too. They will get around 6 feet tall and usually start blooming in April. I will cut the little bluestem back sometime this month. Normally, our last frost is around March 17 so they will begin their spring growth soon, if they have not started already.

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  5. It seems we were heading into an early spring also; however it beginning to snow and down to low 20's tonight. Probably good to keep things in check.

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    1. We had a cold spell this week too, greggo, but not as cold. Lows in the low 30s. Hope it slows the plants down a bit.

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  6. And best of all, your part of Texas is now out of the drought! Wow, I'm glad for you north Texans and hope we Central Texans will get there eventually.

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    1. A couple of heavy rains in January and we are out of the drought. I wonder how fast we would be back in a drought if we miss a couple of rains? Our major water source, Lake Lavon, is still 6 feet low. The water district postponed discussions about moving us to Stage 4 watering restrictions until the end of May. Let's hope the rain continues and you get more in Central Texas soon!

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  7. Nice to see the Prairie emerging from sleep, however brief! Love that elbow bush - which nursery did you shop from, may I ask? My hot pink salvia greggis are blooming right alongside the daffodils - kind of weird. Let's hope we don't get a surprise hard freeze. Seems unlikely at this point, though. Cheers!

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    1. Tamara, I had to wait until I bought one more elbow bush before announcing where they can be found. I was afraid the tens of people (that may be too many) that read this blog would all rush out and buy all of the plants before I got another one. I bought one on my lunch break today and my source can be revealed. Elbow bush is available at Rohde’s in Garland. They have several nice looking plants in five gallon pots and two in three in one gallon pots. These plants are leftovers from last year but they seem to be ok. Fading flowers but no leaves yet. Umm, about that unlikely freeze, mid 20s tonight and tomorrow night. Better now than next month.

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    2. Thanks Michael. Gives me a good excuse to finally get down to Rohde's for a visit, as I've never been. The Prairie looks lovely, btw, and I appreciate the tip about the purple thistle sprout. Did you plant your purple prickly pear? The mother plant that I gave the pad from stayed outside all winter no problem but is still in a pot.

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  8. I met elbow bush when I lived in Dripping Springs and loved it. I sprouted a lot of cuttings but am not sure if any survived being eaten by deer - thought they were deer resistant and didn't protect them.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Marilyn. I understand that elbow bush roots easily. I may try a few cutting myself. I don't have to worry about deer around here.

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  9. As hard as it is to believe, it really is spring, isn't it! I doubt I'll ever get used to thinking about spring in February...back home it's below zero! I've always love that vignette with the Yucca (I believe) amidst the Little Bluestem...never more beautiful than right now...that powdery blue with the pinkish Bluestem all around it...just stunning!

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    1. Scott, this winter has been unusually warm for us, although the temperature was more normal this past week and did not even get out of the 30s yesterday.
      Yes, that is Yucca pallida with little bluestem and four nerve daisy. They make a great combination. In the spring and early summer, the yucca and little bluestem are the same powder blue color as you can see in the header photo.

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  10. Hi, Michael. I saw your comment on GardenRant, about the lawn alternative book, and will be writing on the topic again tomorrow on GardenRant. Could I grab your header and use it in my post? With a link, of course? It's gee-orgeous! That's Little Bluestem, right? Susan
    Please write me at susan20912@verizon.net. Thanks!

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  11. I took a bunch of photos of this bush blooming all over the park at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve. Thanks to you, I know what it is called.

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    1. Thanks for telling me Collagemama. I will have to go to Arbor Hills and try to find the elbow bush in its natural habitat. I have never noticed them there before.

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