A Favorite Forage for Whitetails & Birds

American Beautyberry; Photo by B.LaVergne, Sept 2013.
American Beautyberry; Photo by B.LaVergne, Sept 2013.

A member of the Verbena family, American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), also called “French Mulberry” by some, is a deciduous, perennial native shrub growing up to 6 feet wide and almost as tall.   One of the most eye-catching plants at this time of year, it’s the purple berries that draw people’s attention rather than the palest of pink flowers in spring & early summer.   The flowers are approximately ¼ inch wide, and the berries are not much bigger than that when formed in late summer.   The berries hold their bright color for many weeks, even after the leaves are gone, usually until a good frost has occurred. 

American Beautyberry is one of the favorite forage plants for whitetail deer in the Oak Prairie Region of Texas.   Check out the link on the ORWMA “Groups” tab above, and click on Deer, then “Links for Managing Whitetails”, click on “Favorite Forage Plants of Whitetail Deer” to learn about other favorite plants for deer in this area.   While the deer enjoy the leaves, several species of birds enjoy the berries in the fall & winter, such as Bobwhite Quail, Robins and even domestic chickens. 

What beauty is added to our landscapes when most others have stopped blooming in late summer and fall while adding to beneficial food sources for both deer and birds!   The berries on their long stems also make beautiful dried fall decorations in our homes (but please take care to keep them away from children).   Click on the following link to find out more on this wonderful plant: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CAAM2.

Enjoy this beautiful season!  Live life outdoors!

Farkleberry/Sparkleberry – North America’s Largest Blueberry

Farkleberry Tree, Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013
Farkleberry Tree, Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013

We have this beautiful old Farkleberry tree which is about 15′ tall, that as drought tolerant as they are reported to be, I think has finally succumbed to our prolonged dry conditions.  The picture here is during “better times”.   I sincerely hope it recovers.

The native Farkleberry, Sparkleberry Vaccinium arboretum, is another really great addition to our environment.  It offers something neat for every season.  An understory, deciduous plant,  this perennial is mostly found as a large shrub, but as you can see, under the right conditions can grow upwards to 25′ with a spread to match.

In the spring it has white flowers that resemble little bells, that ripen to dark blue berries in the fall, along with beautiful red fall foliage.  In the winter, the twisted exfoliating bark is striking colors of red and gray.

It attracts pollinators, Bobwhite Quail, American Robins and small mammals.

Foliage of the Farkleberry Tree, Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013
Foliage of the Farkleberry Tree, Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013
Bark & Trunk of the Farkleberry Tree, Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013.
Bark & Trunk of the Farkleberry Tree, Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013.

Native Plant to Look for on Oakridge Road

Pussyfoot, Dalea obovata; Photo by Gl.Lambert, June 2013
Pussyfoot, Dalea obovata; Photo by Gl.Lambert, June 2013

Pussyfoot, Stinking Prairie-clover Dalea obovata can be found in the Lambert’s front acreage, and around, along Oakridge Road.  And probably elsewhere because this plant is endemic to Texas and particularly loves the sandy soil and scattered oaks of the ranch.  This perennial herb is a member of the pea family.  At the ranch it typically flowers in the spring with whitish flowers, going to seed in late summer.   Elsewhere, flowering has been recorded from April until October.  Plants can reach 1′ to 2′ tall.   They are particularly beneficial to bees.

Thank you Glenda for the great picture.

I found an additional picture that allows permission to post, of a larger plant,  just for comparison of size:

Pussyfoot, Goliad, Tx, Bill Carr_2007
Pussyfoot, Goliad, Tx, Bill Carr_2007

Now regardless of time of year, you will perhaps be able to see its potential and recognize it a little easier.

 

Pokeweed

Do you know what I am?   Photo by Donna Burrows_May2013
Do you know what I am? Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013

The plant quiz posted in May included the picture above of the American Pokeweed, Pokeberry  Phytolacca Americana, in its late spring growth.

pokeweed_DBurrows_June2013 Now this native plant should be looking more like the picture above, and may be more recognizable in the summer  blooming form with small white to pink blossoms.   The very distinctive winter look has the black/purple berries on very red stems. This perennial can become quite large, reaching 12 feet and can be considered a weed.  Prior to the berries forming, very young leaves can be carefully cooked and eaten, but otherwise all parts are toxic, including the rootstock.  Early Native Americans had many medicinal uses.

The berries will attract such birds as our Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird and the Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher.  It is deer resistant. The Giant Leopard Moth, Hypercompe scribonia. will use it for a host plant.

Finding Native Vines

Spurred Butterfly Pea; Photo by Gr.Lambert, June 2013
Spurred Butterfly Pea; Photo by Gr.Lambert, June 2013

Spurred Butterfly pea Centrosema virginianum, part of the bean (legume) family.  We can find this sprawling vine from about April to September. It is vining, with no tendrils. The flower is a great nectar source and the plant is larval food plant for Long-tailed Skipper Butterfly, Urbanus proteus.  It’s great for the organic butterfly garden. Thankfully, it tolerates dry conditions well.  Thank you, Grady, for another great picture.

Flowers Blooming Now

Purple Pleat-Leaf Grady Lambert found blooming May 2013
Purple Pleat-Leaf Grady Lambert found blooming May 2013

Wonderful picture from Grady of one of our native wildflowers, the Purple Pleat-Leaf Alophia drummondii.   Sometimes called Pinewood Lily.  This flower loves our sandy soil, and can be found blooming from April – June, in part shade.  Since it doesn’t make a great cut flower, best to enjoy them where you see them; flowers remain open a very short time. In fact, they tend to wither by the noon heat.    If you should want to move them into your garden, you need to sow seed in the fall.

Water Lilies in the Rain

If you’re driving Miller Creek Loop, you will find these water lilies as we did last Saturday in the rain.

Water Lilies; Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013
Water Lilies; Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013

White Water Lily, Fragrant Water LilyNymphaea odorata.    These perennial lilies are native to Texas and only become a problem if they become too thick within their environment .  Then there is a risk they will start to shade out other plants.  These lilies are found in our ponds, lakes, slow streams and ditches.  The plant parts and seeds benefit waterbirds and small mammals.

Water Lilies on Miller Creek Loop, Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013
Water Lilies on Miller Creek Loop, Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013