Thursday, August 22, 2013

Prairie Plant Profile #5 - Angel's Trumpet

Last year I removed some of the remaining St. Augustine grass in the narrow side yard between my driveway and the neighbor's fence. I needed a place to store the excess dirt that resulted from my pathway projects. Once I had excavated more dirt than I needed, I put a Free Dirt post on craigslist and the dirt was usually gone within hours. 

It turns out that seeds from other parts of the garden tagged along when I moved dirt to this area. Rock Rose, Clammy Weed, Cowpen Daisy, and Mealycup Sage sprouted in this space. Note to self: write a post on the odd names of native plants. But the volunteer plant that gets the most attention is Datura wrightii, which goes by the common names Angel's Trumpet, Devil's Trumpet, Sacred Datura, Sacred Thorn-Apple, Thorn Apple, and Jimsonweed. I usually refer to the plant as either Datura or Angel's Trumpet, depending on who I am talking to.

What makes this plant special are the large white flowers that open in the evening. This photo was taken at about 7:30 PM when the flowers were about half way open.

I can't recall the last time I intentionally planted Angel's Trumpet in my garden. It reseeds and grows where it wants until I remove the unwanted plants. I allowed three plants to grow in this spot. The seeds for these plants probably came from the plant that was growing nearby in my compost bin for the last couple of years. All it takes is a little sun and a little water to have a massive plant. This mass is about eight feet around. I have had single plants grow as large as these three combined.

When the flowers begin to open, their intoxicating scent fills the air and so do bees.  

The bees like these flowers so much that they will even force themselves into the flowers when they are still tightly closed.

At 8:00 PM the flowers are open a little more and the bees are still buzzing in and out of the flowers. All of the buzzing inspired me to make a short movie.

By the next morning, the fully open flowers are attracting the bees again even though they are a starting to brown and wilt. Within a few hours, the flowers will droop and wither.

Spiny seedpods develop after the flowers fade.

The seedpods split open when they dry and hundreds of seeds fall to the ground. It seems like 100% of the seeds sprout. Earlier this year, I shared some of the many seedlings with a few neighbors. The rest of the seedlings were removed.

The plants sometimes attract leaffooted bugs, Leptoglossus phyllopus. The bugs are more of an annoyance than anything because they may fly out when you approach the plant. They may also be the cause of the spots on these leaves. The leaves of the plants are also a food source for the large caterpillars of hawk moths. I leave the caterpillars alone because they usually do not do much visible damage since the plants grow so fast and because I enjoy watching them return to the flowers as hawk moths.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

God's Prairie Garden

Mine is not the only prairie garden in Plano. Instead of sharing more pictures of the prairie garden around my house, I thought I would share some pictures of the prairie garden around God's house. 

God's prairie garden is located at Prairie Creek Baptist Church on 15th Street in Plano between Coit Road and Independence Parkway. I drive by all the time and I even drove through the parking lot a time or two to get a better look, but a little over a month ago was my first time to get out, take a look around and take a few pictures.  

Most of the plants on the church grounds are Texas natives, however there are a few durable non-natives as well. The largest bed is in front of the church facing 15th Street. Pink roses, I presume Knock Out, were in full bloom. The Giant Coneflower growing in front of the roses are just finishing their blooming. Mealycup sage and the annual Monarda, Horsemint round out the picture.

Panning to the right, a sea of Mealycup Sage plants and other prairie plants fill the front of the bed.  
In this opening between the Mealycup Sage, yellow flowered Cutleaf Daisies, Indian Blanket, Horsemint, and Mexican Hat provide some variety. There appears to be a Standing Cypress plant that is not yet blooming in the front center of this photo. There also appears to be some sort of squash or gourd in the right center of the photo.  

More Mexican Hat flowers (red in front and yellow in back) and the State Grass of Texas, Sideoats Grama. 

More of the wildflowers.

A Prairie Garden sign that has seen better days announces the identity of the garden to those that are more familiar with manicured lawns.

All around the church building are some of the largest American Beautyberry bushes that I have ever seen. A Lindheimer's Muhly grows in front of the Beautyberry.

This Texas Sage is being strangled by a Carolina Snailseed vine. Carolina Snailseed is an aggressive native vine with red berries that is generally not grown in gardens. I suspect a bird planted the seeds for this vine. The yellow flowers are Zexmenia.

Several Sabal Minor Palms grow under Bald Cypress trees on the west side of the grounds.

Lush plantings fill the area around the main entrance to the church. Here a Desert Willow is surrounded by gold lantana.

Looking toward the entrance are more Desert Willows, roses, lantana, and Artemisia. As I was taking pictures, a woman drove up in a SUV. She got out and began removing some gardening tools. We greeted each other and I asked if it was OK for me to take a few pictures. She said it was fine and she would be happy to answer any questions I had. We talked a little more and I found out that she was one of two church members that take care of the garden. I also made the connection that she lives at the other end of my neighborhood and we met previously. 

Being Mr. Plant-Know-It-All, I did not think I would need to ask any questions until I saw this small tree. It did not look familiar at all.

The tree was filled with small fruits. I was stumped, so I asked for the ID of this plant. She said it was a Viburnum but she could not remember what kind. Then it hit me. I asked if it was a Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum and she concurred.

Near the base of the Rusty Blackhaw, a milkweed of some kind (light green leaves) grows with Ruellia.

Mexican Feather Grass and Lindheimer's Muhly grow near the visitor's parking area.

The flower beds on the north and east sides of the church are around 10 feet deep. Possumhaw Holly, Turks Cap, Coralberry, and Pale-leaf Yucca are thriving in this section.

A little further down, the yuccas are in need of a little maintenance to remove the old flower stalks. Behind the yuccas are some good looking little bluestem grasses. They look so much healthier than mine.

Rockrose, Artemisia, Knockout Rose, and Possumhaw Holley grow near a door on the back side of the building. 

For perspective, here is an overhead view of the property, courtesy of Google. And here is a link to the landscape designer's photos showing the garden in spring bloom.!gardens/vstc1=prairie-creek

It is nice to see a large landscape that includes native plants to support the native wildlife and conserve natural resources. Sure, there are more weeds than I allow in my much smaller garden and some plants could use some pruning, but God always welcomes the weeds and those in need of a little maintenance into his garden. And when you consider that two church members volunteer their time and energy for the maintenance on this large prairie garden, I say it looks pretty nice.