Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Snow and Native Plants

The Christmas snow is kind of old news by the end of the day on December 26. The roads were relatively clear this morning, so off to work I went. Before I left, I took a few quick photos of the snow on my native plants.

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Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora

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Pine Muhly, Muhlenbergia dubia

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Closeup of Pine Muhly

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Agave neomexicana

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Spineless prickly pear

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Possumhaw Holly, Ilex decidua

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Tracks in the snow

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Looks like rabbit tracks

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Predator tracks? Probably free roaming house cat, although we have had some coyotes spotted in the neighborhood. Unlike my neighbors, I am OK with coyotes roaming in the streets. I won't share my reasons. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another Mistflower

I frequently mention Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, and Fragrant Mistflower, Ageratina havanensis. Both are great plants for attracting butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, particularly late in the season when many other plants are no longer blooming. 

Although the garden has eluded serious injury from freezing temperatures and hard frosts, these two plants are now shutting down their flower production for the season. 

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Most of the flowers on the Gregg's Mistflower have gone to seed like this one. The puffy, purple tinged flowerheads are still interesting to insects like the twice-stabbed lady beetle (a good guy that eats aphids), but there is no nectar for the butterflies.

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There is no nectar for the butterflies on the Fragrant Mistflower either. The leaves on the plants are turning a nice shade of burgundy but the flowers are brown and the seeds scatter with the slightest touch.

I have another mistflower that is still going strong and providing food to the butterflies and pollinator. This one is Blue Mistflower, Chromolaena odorata.

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Blue Mistflower is the last flower in my garden to bloom. This year the flowers began to open during the first week of November. This is the first time I have mentioned the Blue Mistflower because its flowers are usually killed by a hard frost just as they start to open.   

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The bees and butterflies did not show much interest in the Blue Mistflower when it first started blooming because the Gregg's Mistflower and Fragrant Mistflower were still blooming and apparently have a better tasting nectar. Once the flowers on those two plants began to fade, everybody headed over to the Blue Mistflower. This photo shows the open form of the plant. In my garden, it reaches about four feet tall. If you look closely, you can see the plant is covered with butterflies.

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Here is another closeup of the flowers with a Skipper butterfly.

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There are a number of Queen and Monarch butterflies still in the garden. I counted 12 Queens in one area of the garden yesterday.

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Common Buckeye

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A Gulf Fritillary samples the nectar. I found some small GF caterpillars on the passionvine. I hope they can survive.

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Orange Sulphur

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I have noticed several wooly caterpillars in the garden. I think they are the larva of the Giant Leopard Moth. This one appears to be eating the flowers of the Blue Mistflower.

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Blue Mistflower survived the last two winters in my garden. The plant is native to the warmer regions in light green on this BONAP map. Our 2010-2011 winter was pretty cold, so it should survive most winters in Plano. 

It is interesting to note that internet searches for Chromolaena odorata identify this as an invasive plant in many parts of the world. According to the Global Invasive Species Database, it is one of the 100 Worlds Worst Invaders and that list is not restricted to plants. As far as I know, Blue Mistflower is not a problem in its native range.

It is also interesting that all three of the Mistflowers mentioned were named Eupatorium at one time or another. All of these plants have several aliases. It is hard for me to know which name is correct so I try to go by the names used at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. As I was writing this post, I became aware that I have probably been using an outdated name for Fragrant Mistflower and made that correction above.