Friday, October 20, 2017

Plant Find: new Galveston garden additions

I split out my Galveston garden update into two posts since one was much more related to maintenance and the other is about two new plants I acquired and added to the garden.  Both of these plants have the silvery green foliage that I love so much.

My favorite little nursery in Galveston has a neat assortment of plants that are so unlike anything we have in central Oklahoma.  I really enjoy looking at the assortment of semi-tropical trees and shrubs that can be grown outdoors in Galveston.  On my most recent trip I came across a few plants that I have been coveting for years.

Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus) planted in the Galveston yard

I have previously posted about a tree (sometimes a shrub) that Christie and I fell in love with while in south Florida, the Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus).  I actually tried propagating those trees from cuttings and had some initial success, but couldn't keep the cuttings alive long-term.  I found a nice size bush at the nursery for a reasonable price and had not previously seen one for sale at all, so of course I snatched it up.

Gauva fruits at Moody Gardens - aren't they cute?
I believe these are the same Pineapple Guava, but I'm not positive.

Another plant that I had been coveting is a small guava bush.  I had seen these growing at the Moody Gardens in Galveston and taken their photos in years past.  They have really funky little flowers, followed by cute little guava fruits that I find really interesting.  I like the little fruit with the four-point star that persists on the bottom.  Again, when I saw one of these at a reasonable price, I had to scoop it up.

Pineapple Guava
Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana) planted in front of the Galveston house

We had honestly run out of room for planting any new plants in Galveston, thanks to the monsters that took over the garden (post coming soon), but who needs a lawn anyway?  We just dug up grass and fit 'em in.  I envision some day a few years down the road needing to buy some paving stones so that you can walk through what used to be the yard, but is now a jungle of beautiful, lush tropical forest...

Friday, September 29, 2017

New seeds

I don't have a lot of experience growing native plants from seed*, but I have a lot of stock to practice with over the next year.  I purchased some Asclepias humistrata (Sandhill Milkweed) seeds from eBay and the seller sent me two other packets of seeds to try - Cosmos and Ipomoea purpurea (Candy Cane Morning Glories).

Eleven packets of seeds for me to plant
I have also been looking into growing some more native plants that host or attract birds and butterflies.  I came across a group on Facebook where one member was offering seeds to anyone who would pay for the postage.  She kindly sent me two envelopes full of seeds of butterfly host plants, including Maurandella antirrhiniflora (Snapdragon Vine), Asclepias asperula (Antelopehorn Milkweed), Phyla nodiflora (Frogfruit), Verbena bonariensis (Brazilian Verbena), Polanisia dodecandra (Clammyweed), Echinacea Cheyenne Spirit (Coneflower), Aristolochia fimbriata (White-veined Dutchman's Pipe), and Zinnia Zowie. 

Sandhill Milkweed (Asclepias humistrata) - courtesy of

As I've mentioned before, I really like Asclepias, so I'm very excited about the prospect of growing these two species (A. asperula and A. humistrata) from seed.  The humistrata species (above) is not native to Oklahoma, but I think it will do well in my climate.  The Dutchman's pipe has some really funky flowers (below).  It would be cool to get this growing on my back fence.

White-veined Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia fimbriata) - courtesy of Wikimedia

Now I just need to find good places to plant them all!

* This is sort of funny because I have one and only peer-reviewed journal publication to my name and it is titled "Experiences growing aroids from seed."  I have had success growing aroids, but haven't tried many plants from other families from seed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Native persimmons and a recipe!

I was walking around Lake Thunderbird on the east side of town recently and found a persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) tree growing in the riff-raff rocks piled right up near the water.  The tree was in bad shape with fall webworms all over the place, but it did have several fruit on it. 

native Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana)
Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) growing near the lake shore
I plucked one fruit and found that it was still firm, a ways from ripening.  I have read that persimmons are ripe when they still hold their shape but the skin is just beginning to wrinkle a little.

native Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana)
Characteristic four petals at the top of the fruit.
Note: This fruit is not ripe and should not be eaten!
I decided to collect the seeds from this persimmon, so I had to stomp on it with my shoe to break open the hard fruit.  The single fruit contained 8 seeds that were large and covered in very sticky fruit. I'm going to try growing these by planting them outdoors and letting them overwinter outdoors.  Other than being picked a little early and me being a human rather than a squirrel, I should be following the most common way that these native persimmons are propagated.  If I am successful in growing some trees then I will transplant them to some areas where they can thrive and hopefully produce more!

native Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana)
Seeds removed from the sticky fruit
I am fascinated by persimmons because they are one of the only (maybe the only?) truly native and human-eatable fruiting trees in my area, and it seems like no one knows about them.  I grew up with my mom making Persimmon Cookies during the Christmas season every year.  They are a soft cookie made with warm holiday spices and a consistency sort of like a blueberry muffin.

My mom purchases the larger persimmons from the grocery store.  I think these are an Asian species, though I don't know for sure.  I'm curious what other people do with their persimmons.  I think I should set up a chair next to the persimmons in the produce section this holiday season and survey each person who buys them.  Maybe this year I can find a few native persimmon trees and pick some fresh local fruits for her cookies!  My mom agreed to share her recipe in case anyone would like to give them a try.

Persimmon Cookies

  • 1 c persimmon pulp (3 medium or 2 large fruits)
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 t cloves
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c oil
  • 1 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c nuts (optional, my mom leaves these out)
  • 1 c raisins
Combine ingredients and drop onto cookie sheet with a spoon.  Bake at 350° for 9 minutes.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Plant Find: Three New Succulents

The whole family went on a little reconnaissance trip to a local nursery to look at some shrubs and trees that we might use when we relandscape our front yard.  With a three year old and a five year old we're in a perpetual mode of one of us watching the kids while the other is trying to do something productive, at least until their antics require both of us to bring the universe back into order.  When it was my turn to watch the kiddos I followed them into a long, nearly empty hoop house where they decided to pick up the tiny gravel from the ground and start throwing it out over the empty mesh tables.  I stifled my persistent desire to ask them to stop and just asked that they not throw rocks at each other or at plants.

Huernia zebrina
Huernia zebrina

While they continued their onslaught of gravel flinging I wandered over to the only little patch of green in the hoop house.  It was a selection of small succulent plants with a sign that read "Priced as marked."  I looked around and was surprised to see about 8 little pots of Huernia zebrina, a Stapeliad that I have admired photos of for a white, but had not seen in person and had not yet added to my collection.  Price tag?  Nope.  Huh...

Huernia zebrina
Huernia zebrina

I picked out the best one of the lot, which was a tough choice, because they were all blooming, but some had more buds than others and some had more plant growth.  I selected the one with the most stems and buds I could find, not focusing as much on the current number of flowers.  The flowers are strange little things with a bright red ring that resembles an inner tube and leads to the common name of "Lifesaver plant."

Then I looked at what else was on the table.  An Alluaudia?  Can it be!?!  There were four of them - long, lanky succulent with alternating rows of spines and leaves.  I have admired a giant Alluaudia at the Myriad Gardens for years.  I've never once seen one for sale.  I looked at the four available and picked the best.  This plant was considerably bigger than the Huernia but since I had not seen it for sale before I set a maximum price of $12 in my head.  I'm not sure which species this is, but I am thinking it is probably Alluaudia procera.

I looked a bit more.  Nothing significant that I had been wanting, but there was a cute little plant with very strange leaves.  This was the only plant with a price tag ($3) and also the only one with a real label in it.  It read "Pink Ice Plant (Oscularia deltoides)."  I picked out the best one and proceeded to the cash register, hoping for the best with my unmarked plants.  I figured having one plant with a $3 price tag may help with the others.

Oscularia deltoides
Pink Ice Plant - Oscularia deltoides

Oscularia deltoides
Pink Ice Plant - Oscularia deltoides
I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier decided my three plants were $2, $3, and $4.  Definitely one of my cheapest plant hauls ever!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Native Asclepias

For several years I have been fascinated by Asclepias, one of the many plants given the common name of "milkweed."  This is a genus consisting of more than 140 species of flowering perennials native to North America.  Here in central and southern Oklahoma there is one species, Asclepias viridis (Green antelopehorn), that is prolific. There are three other species (A. tuberosa, A. amplexicaulis, and A. asperula) that I have seen in this area in smaller numbers. The USDA website lists 25 species of Asclepias that naturally occur in Oklahoma, which is surprising to me!  Some of those occur just in the western-most county of the Oklahoma panhandle.  Others occur just in the far eastern-most counties.  Oklahoma does have a lot of habitat diversity.

Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis

Asclepias asperula
Asclepias asperula
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias are interesting plants for several reasons. They are a host plant for the endangered monarch butterflies/caterpillars, as well as many other species of moths and butterflies (Lepidoptera). Gardeners interested in planting native plants that attract butterflies and other local wildlife are fond of several species of Asclepias. Some species have really beautiful flowers and others have really strange flowers. When you look at Asclepias viridis up close it reminds me of the metallic looking passionflower from the THX sound test video.

Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis macro photo

Asclepias amplexicaulis
Asclepias amplexicaulis
I have tried to transplant some Asclepias viridis from the wild into my yard on a few occasions. It is difficult because the root system of the Asclepias consists of a really large single tap root (like a paper towel roll that goes deep into the ground. Unfortunately the native red soil that these plants are growing in is hard and the root is brittle, so it easily snaps as you try to loosen the soil around it. Recently I dug up several species of Asclepias after we had had some rain, so the soil was a little more cooperative. I retrieved 3 viridis, 1 amplexicaulis, and 1 tuberosa.

An unsuccessful Asclepias viridis transplant from a few years ago.
Check out that root!

Chinese Bushclover (Lespedeza cuneata)
Successful transplant of Chinese Bushclover (Lespedeza cuneata) - an introduced species.
While I was digging up these plants my eye was drawn to some small-leaved flowering plants that were growing in good numbers nearby. I dug up a couple of these to try as well. I used my new favorite app, iNaturalist, to help me identify the unfamiliar plants and found that both are Lespedeza (Bushclovers). One is a native (L. virginica) and the other is a semi-invasive introduction from Asia (L. cuneata). Although I shouldn't be, I'm always a little surprised when I come across an introduced species in a place that I think of as undisturbed by humans. The truth is that humans aren't the only ones to introduce new species to a property. Birds, furred animals, and even the wind are perfectly capable of transporting seeds that were introduced anywhere on the continent.

transplanted Asclepias tuberosa
Asclepias tuberosa successful transplant

transplanted Asclepias viridis
Asclepias viridis successful transplant
I am hoping that my transplants survive this time around.  They all wilted within the first day, but some had the appearance of "I'm just thirsty and don't appreciate the change in scenery" wilted, whereas some had the "you killed me!" wilted.  Now that they have been in the ground for a couple of weeks I can tell that three have survived, two viridis and one tuberosa.  The others are most likely deceased, but could surprise me by putting up new growth from the roots.  You just never know.

transplanted Asclepias amplexicaulis
Not so successful Asclepias amplexicaulis transplant

Monday, August 14, 2017

Trip Report: Muir Woods

While on vacation in California in March we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and drove through the beautiful Marin Headlands to Muir Woods. There is a really nice trail that heads back from the visitor's center into the woods.  This was the most crowded National Park I have visited in recent memory, but it was still enjoyable.

Yours truly looking up at the giant Coast Redwoods

Trillium sp.
The woods are made up of giant Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), a smattering of understory trees that shrink in comparison, and a lot of ground cover plants (ferns, Trillium, and others). I was really taken with the Trilliums, having admired photos of them for a long time and having tried unsuccessfully to grow some myself. I uploaded my observations to iNaturalist and it appears most, if not all, of these were Pacific Trillium (Trillium ovatum).

Trillium ovatum

Trillium ovatum
There was also a really pretty flowering plant whose white flowers hung from the plant like those of Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum).  Someone identified it as a Fairybell (Prosartes) on iNaturalist, but I'm not sure which species - Prosartes hookeri or Prosartes smithii.

Prosartes sp.
Prosartes sp.
Oh yeah, I also saw a few neat birds and a really cool banana slug.  That thing was big!  I probably would have seen more birds had there been fewer people, but I was really happy to see so many people enjoying the park.

Banana Slug
Banana slug (Ariolimax)

Happy Trails!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Baptisia seedlings

In late June I participated in the Butterfly Count for Cleveland County, Oklahoma with some of my birding friends. We came across some large Baptisia australis (Blue False Indigo) plants that were covered in seed pods.  I collected some of the pods, took them home and soaked them in water for 24 hours.  I filled an old plastic to-go food container with moist vermiculite and then scattered the seeds in the container and covered them with a thin layer of more moist vermiculite.

Baptisia seedlings
Baptisia australis seedlings

Baptisia seedlings
Baptisia australis seedlings
I put the container out in the greenhouse in indirect light and left it alone.  After a few weeks I had a bunch of seedlings.  I didn't count planted seeds and sprouted seedlings but it appears the germination rate was pretty high.  As with my past experience, the easy part is done and maturing these little plants from their fragile seedling state is the real challenge.  I hope I am successful.  This is such a beautiful native plant.