More plants, a view or two…

Depending on what the software lets me do, this time.

Here’s a plant I’ve seen in the wet areas, but hadn’t identified even to genus before.   I’m sure this is an Echinodorus, one of the water-plantains, but not sure of the species yet.  We saw it in the “swamp overflow” that had actually had water in it last week but is drying now.  Photo taken the same day as the Melonette picture of the previous post, on similar very damp, somewhat sticky soil.

I’m pretty sure of the genus, because look at those bur-shapes in the background…it’s a “bur-head.”  Most of the species in this genus have narrower leaves.   We’ll be trying to get it to grow in the shallow middle pond of our backyard “stream.”   And I think it may be E. cordifolius because of the leaf shape (sort of heart shaped, like violet leaves) but maybe one of the others.

And here’s another plant I don’t know (haven’t worked out the genus yet–there are no actual flowers left, which makes it harder) growing up maybe ten inches higher from the former water level from the Echinodorus:

It’s on the damper, lower side of the trail nearer to the area that stays wet longer.  I can tell it has simple, oval, opposite leaves, and that the remains of the flower parts show they’re five-part (petal, sepal, etc.) flowers…and there are LOTS of flowers that leave five dry sepals after the flowers fall.  Color and shape of flowers would really help key this one out.    There’s a button bush in this area, but it was in such dark shade I didn’t try a  picture of it.

Next in line is Frostweed with Queen butterflies on it (milkweed butterflies, like the monarch.)     Frostweed doesn’t do well in dry years, but in a wet one like this it can even (briefly) hold its own against giant ragweed.   It’s chest to shoulder high on me right now.  I’ve seen two monarchs on it, but they refused to pause long enough for me to photograph them; the smaller Queens were *slightly* easier to capture.  The plant is called frostweed because when the temperature drops, the winged parts of the stem break open and exude ribbons of sap

The same morning I got the better Black Vulture pictures, I took this one on the way back home, walking along the West Grass in the shadow of the Dry Woods.  The creek woods are half or less as tall as eastern woods: a 60 foot tree is exceptional.  That’s due to the regular droughts–the average annual rainfall is about 26-28 inches, but most years it’s a little less.  The 40 inch years bring up the average. Trees in the creek woods include Ashe juniper, Live Oak, Eastern Persimmon, Green Ash, Pecan, Cedar Elm, Hackberry, American Elm, Black Willow, Carolina Buckthorn, Mexican Plum, and used to include the tallest tree around us, a huge Cottonwood.  It died near the end of the five year drought, leaving no offspring.  We have one or two Black Willows left, one or two American Elms left, and probably a dozen Eastern Persimmons of various sizes.  We’ve planted various trees in there and lost them to drought (including a Cypress, down in the swamp, which at the time had had water in it for several years at a time.)   We’re glad to have every one of those trees.  One of the older Cedar Elms used to have a Red-tailed Hawk nest in it, but a windstorm took the top off some years back.


Here’s another view of the West Grass, this time from the north, looking SW along the line of the creek woods and much closer to the woods (different day, different angle but also in the morning light.)  The shorter rounder “ball-shaped” trees are the Ashe junipers.   This was taken from one of the mowed trails between Center Walk and the north fence…where the grass looks slightly greener or blue-green toward the upper left, the little bluestem is a lot thicker and mixed with Indiangrass and a little big bluestem…deeper, moister soil.

Both these show the variations in color that come with a “prairie” rather than a “cultivated” field…the ground hasn’t been harrowed to a plane in two decades now, and the remaining terrace berms have weathered (already had with cattle, but now with not being messed with.)  There’s still a lot of KRB and Silky Bluestem (imported “improved” pasture grass)  in the West Grass, but as the native grasses move back in the differences in height, color, and leaf texture have made real changes.   Every difference of color or texture through the year reveals slight differences in the plant communities…a little deeper soil, a little more or less soil moisture, a slope that’s more favorable for one than another of the plant community to take advantage of.  Every plant has its preferences; every plant has a slightly different rate of growth, or of withering under a hot sun, or of flowering/seeding.  Completely unlike a monoculture, what you see changes from day to day as the plants respond to sun, rain, heat, cold, clouds or no clouds, wind whipping them around or stillness.   The West Grass (actually each part of the place) looks different hourly from dawn to dusk, day to day…and with experience we’re more able to notice those differences and appreciate them.   I feel so lucky every time I get to be out and just *look* at things.

10 thoughts on “More plants, a view or two…

  1. Our one acre was once part of a Bermuda grass seed farm. It’s been private land now since at least 1971, possibly earlier; I would have to look up when the county mapped the parcels. Even now, if we plant anything and water Bermuda comes up. It’s hard to get rid of and I’ve just about given up on planting vegetables. Here in the AZ desert we garden in the winter / early spring because the long 110 + up to over 120 days is hard on the veggies (and the gardener!)

    1. We can do a fall garden that will often last until December, and a spring garden–but the time from “last serious frost” to “ground won’t cool off at night enough for tomatoes” has grown shorter, meaning a spring garden’s pretty much limited to things that are “done” by June 1. I actually quit gardening for veggies because of the heat and the watering restrictions.

  2. Hi – I see that you are getting better. It is really neat to realize the ecology of the different parts of our planet. I like the wild areas – I live in a condo townhouse development that has a lot of land, some of which is NOT mowed and made into lawn. While a very green lawn may look nice, a wild field has much more to offer.

    Stay safe and stay sane,

    Jonathan up here in New Hampshire

  3. I assume you are acquainted with iNaturalist. Great web resource for identification and research in biology — plants, birds, insects, animals. Great place to post photos, etc of non-cultivated biology. Cultivated can be identified as such. There are a lot of great botany people on the site. They will help you along on identification. And some look for specific plants, butterflies, etc.

  4. I’m really curious about the “melonette” that you mention here and in your previous post. It looks very much like a vining plant that climbs all over other plants and structures where I live (almost like kudzu). I don’t like calling plants weeds but it is a bit of a thug in my neighborhood. Is it something native you are encouraging where you are? I tried to google “melonette” to get more details to see if it was the same plant but couldn’t get a match.

    BTW, thanks for the updates on how your land is doing. I really enjoy them.

    1. Melonette, Melothria pendula is–around here, at least–a delicate little thing and doesn’t smother other plants. I never see it outside the creek woods, where it prefers shade and at least slightly moist soil, and it’s usually growing on the soil itself, not climbing. However, I see from the internet that it does climb and does climb over other plants in the Southeast, which is much wetter than we are. Our “cover everything” vines include Japanese Honeysuckle, Wild Grape (several species), and bindweed. Poison ivy sometimes decides to blanket plants on the ground instead of climbing a tree.

  5. Thanks for letting me know the latin name of your melonette. It’s so interesting how the same plant or animal behaves so differently in different locations. On a semi-related note, we have a lot of invasives which are unfortunately overwhelming the more native species. It’s encouraging to hear that your efforts to eliminate the exotics and return your land to a more “natural” state are having some success.

    1. Every plant and critter has a set of natural preferences and just ‘does better’ in one environment than another. So it’s easy to be a rare delight in one place and a common PITA others. I was stunned to realize that my delicate little melonette could act like bindweed somewhere else. It’s been fascinating this year to notice that all our tallgrasses need to become dominant and able to invade the invasive non-native grasses is lots more rain. I suspect that when there’s none, the non-natives will move back in. Aside from spreading seed, we haven’t tried to eradicate the non-native grasses, because the first and primary task of managing grassland is “get some roots down in the ground to hold the soil. KRB doesn’t do that as well as the native tallgrasses, but it does better than trying to kill off the KRB and reseed. Johnson grass was a “kill it” from the first because it was easy to identify and hadn’t taken over that much yet. Japanese honeysuckle in the woods is a different matter: we go after it fairly aggressively in winter when it’s more visible. We got rid of most of our chinaberry, chinese tallow, and photinia just cutting it down, but all those left seeds in the ground that will be viable for years to come, so it’s a constant “Wow, there’s another one, get it out.” But we don’t have an ideal response because there’s only the two of us and we don’t work as fast (or as long) as we did years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.