Saturday, December 25, 2010

Epazote (Dysphania ambrosioides)

Epazote is a staple of authentic Mexican cuisine. Very strong scent. Click post title to read the Wikipedia description.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Texas Forsythia (Foresteria pubescens)

Texas elbow bush is often called "Spring Herald," because it is usually the first to bloom in the spring. Its delicate yellowish-green flowers appear in early February or March before the leaves, in the axils of the last year's leaves. It grows in North Central Texas to the Edwards Plateau and into the Trans-Pecos, in open pastures and thickets. It has an irregular growth habit, with drooping branches that often layer and form thickets. Its light green leaves provide an attractive contrast in the landscape, and are among the first to appear in the spring. Texas elbow-bush can form an interesting background in a naturalistic landscape, and careful pruning will promote a denser shrub. Female plants produce fleshy, blue-black fruits that are an important food source for birds and small mammals. Excellent choice for xeriscaping. Survives year after year across the southwest in areas with very little rainfall.

Plant Habit or Use: medium shrub/large shrub/small tree

Exposure: sun/partial sun

Flower Color: yellow - green

Blooming Period: spring - flowers do not have petals but have pubescens

Fruit Characteristics: blue - black drupe

Height: to 15 feet

Width: to 15 feet

Plant Character: deciduous

Heat Tolerance: high

Water Requirements: very low

Soil Requirements: adaptable

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Soapberry Borer Alert

Be on the watchout for the invasion of the Mexican soapberry borer, which has struck in 33 or more Texas counties and threatens the native soapberry population. See links for information and images and also a link to report sightings.
Information and images:
Report here:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

First Frost

We had our first light frost Thursday night/Friday morning Oct 28-29. All the wild gourds I previously mentioned were killed and any exposed morning glory was killed.
Speaking of morning glory, I found this one growing in a ditch and it had just started blooming when the frost came. It's actually Ipomoea purpurea or "common" morning glory, which isn't seen growing in the wild much around here. It's the more common ipomoea hederifolia that is so invasive and widespread.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Texas Buckeye/White Buckeye Aesculus glabra var. arguta

Mexican Buckeye (Aesculus glabra var. arguta) spring 2010.

Mexican Buckeye/Red Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa)

Mexican Buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa) can be found locally, almost always on dry, rocky limestone slopes. This native makes seed pods with three shiny black seeds and the Texas Buckeye (Aesculus glabra var. arguta) makes a larger single seed and tends to drop its leaves in hot, dry summers.

Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) has completely infested at least one local area. You're probably familiar with the Bradford Pear cultivar, one of the most widely planted (and overused) landscaping trees in the U.S. The ones growing here are the result of the Bradford pear seeding out and is different than the cultivar, with viscious thorns and it suckers profusely. This is probably the first tree to bloom in this area and I was surprised to see some of them bloom again in the Fall. The fruits are about the size of a pea and are inedible but birds do like them.

Bois d' arc/Osage Orange

2010 was a bumper year for bois d' arc/osage orange fruit. It's not good for anything but the tree has a beautiful, hard orange wood and is one of the most rot-resistant woods in the world. Native Americans knew its value very well and prized the wood for bow and arrow making. The tree tends to fruit in alternate years or possibly depends on amount of rainfall at crucial stages.

Wild Gourd

I'm not sure what name to give this particular wild gourd yet, since they freely hybridize, but these are found growing along a river bottom. They come in several shapes from round to the shape shown with the handle. They dry well and have a fairly thick, durable shell. 

Bur/Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Lots of Bur Oak acorns this year.

Fossil Pecan or Acorn?

At first glance, this appears to be a fossilized pecan or acorn. I found it in a dry river bottom about 30 feet down from the top of the river bank. The banks are heavy with oaks, pecans and walnuts, so it's feasible and if so, a rare find. On the other side, barely viewable in this pic, seems to be part of a shell still attached.

Eastern Black Walnut

Here's a batch of black walnuts (juglans nigra) that I picked up from a dry river bottom a few days ago. The trees bore a very heavy crop this year. All of the native black walnut trees in this area seem to be the Eastern black walnut. I know of one Texas black walnut (juglans nigra microcarpa) in the area, which is the "little black walnut", much smaller than the Eastern black walnut. Too bad that walnuts bring such a low price, unlike pecans.

Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis)

I found a small number of wild petunias (ruellia humilis) growing in an old cemetery. The entire plant was no more than two inches tall, probably because of regular mowing.

Antelope Horns (asclepias asperula) Fall sighting

I didn't realize asclepias actually bloomed all over again in the fall. Since the ones that bloomed in the spring are dried up, this means an entirely new plant grew from the root.