Wildflower Magazine 2022 | Volume 39, No. 1

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2022 | Volume 39, No. 1






FAR Afield

The Wildflower Center’s Native Plants of North America Database describes pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) as “sprawling,” noting that it can form “colonies of considerable size.” Perhaps that’s why some look on this pink perennial less than fondly. Despite its tendency to escape cultivated gardens and run a bit wild, “P.E.P.” — as some flower nerds like to call it — is undeniably pretty, especially en masse, as it’s often found along Texas roadsides and beyond. When you consider that this drought-hardy species provides nectar for pollinators and seeds for birds and small mammals, it’s hard not to see an expanse like this one as anything but beneficial. And, look, it’s even playing nicely with Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). – A.M. PHOTO Theresa DiMenno

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LOOK Closer

In tarot cards, the Four of Cups represents an inability to appreciate what we have. This stunning image of two isolated pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) flowers — shaped like cups, incidentally — begs us to appreciate not only what’s right in front of us, but also to delight in a new perspective. Viewed from the side, the blooms’ striking, dark veins are made prominent, and light from above gives each yellow center an ethereal glow. Even the deep green background, a blur of healthy foliage, seems filled with mystery. If the Four of Cups suggests a touch of ennui regarding everyday life, perhaps a pair of pink evening primroses (a natural two of cups, if you will) can achieve just the opposite by helping us see beauty in something common: a native wildflower. – A.M. PHOTO Theresa DiMenno


FROM THE Interim Executive Director

Building on a Legacy THIS YEAR, WE CELEBR ATE 40 YEARS OF EXISTENCE, and during that time, we’ve grown and changed so much as an institution, from our name and location to our acreage and affiliation. Founded as the National Wildf lower flora of North America. Research Center in 1982, we were renamed the Today, we still provide information about Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1996. native plants through efforts such as this magOriginally located in East Austin off FM 963, azine, our Native Plants of North America we opened the gates to our current public gar- plant database (used by more than 2.4 million dens in South Austin in 1995. We expanded our people across the continent), and online and in acreage through the years from the original 42 person classes. We still do research, only we’ve acres to 284 acres. In 2006, we donned burnt expanded it to study landscape restoration, orange tees and joined up with The Universi- biodiversity and climate change. And we still ty of Texas at Austin (but we still don’t have a provide a place for people to engage with wildTexas Longhorn grazing in our savanna mead- flowers and our natural world through public ow). And as the Texas Arboretum and Family gardens, programs and events. Garden opened in 2012 and 2014 respectively, The Wildflower Center is increasingly we grew our living collections, expanded our relevant, and it touches lives in many ways. cultivated gardens, and increased capacity We discovered this very keenly at the start for public engagement to become the official of the pandemic when people turned to us Botanic Garden and Arboretum of Texas. for much-needed activity and retreat. We’re Yet through all of that change, our core a place where parents can build memories purpose has remained constant, even if the with their kids, couples can wed, and gardenwords we use to express it have evolved. Our ers can learn how to better cultivate native purpose, as outlined in the Center’s original milkweeds to support monarch butterflies. In Articles of Incorporation and summarized short, we’re here for plants and people. We alhere, was to perform and encourage research ways have been, and we will continue to be. At on wildflowers; to provide a site for lectures, 40, we are certainly not “over the hill.” In fact, seminars and other educational endeavors; I’d say we’re just getting started. and to disseminate information encouraging the cultivation and conservation of the native Stay wild,

Lee Clippard Interim Executive Director

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TABLE of Contents


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The Beasts We Need

Native plants depend on keystone animal species in Yellowstone by Susan J. Tweit



Fighting for Wild Yards

Defending natural landscapes amid city ordinances, HOAs and prim lawns by Melissa Gaskill

PLANT PICKS Common and obscure blanketflowers

10 BOTANY 101 What is going on with these post-freeze trees? 12 IN THEIR ELEMENT Reasons to embrace slugs and snails (really!) 15 PULL IT OR PLANT IT A lively debate about Mexican feathergrass 16 FIELD GUIDE An illustrated roundup of common garden spiders 34 NEWS AND UPDATES The latest on our gardens and our work 37 THINGS WE LOVE A few of our favorite things


38 THANK YOU, DONORS 40 CAN DO You can draw from nature, no skills required 44 PLANT PEOPLE Meet a couple who started their own arboretum 48 WILD LIFE Rethinking the use of “Indian” in common plant names

ON THE COVER A majestic Wapiti pack wolf stares directly at the camera lens. PHOTO National Park Service/Jim Peaco ABOVE Front yard in Austin, Texas, blanketed with black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta), horsemint (Monarda citriodora) and winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) flowers. PHOTO John Hart Asher



FEATURED Contributors

Lauren Moya Ford is a Texan

graduated from Yale Law School in 1968 and was an attorney at Dinébe’iiná Náhiiłna be Agha’diit’ahii Navajo Legal Services from 1968 to 1970. He was a founding professor of legal studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he taught for over 30 years and is currently a professor emeritus. A frequent contributor to Indian Country Today, he is a consulting attorney on Indigenous peoples’ issues.

Raleigh Darnell is

a production editor for the International Ocean Discovery Program as well as a writer, native plant propagator and scholar. With a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and a master’s in English, both from Sul Ross State University, he has worked across the country in a variety of roles. His research interests are in science communications, and for some reason he can’t stop talking about Alexander von Humboldt!

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he began shooting food, most notably for the New York Times. He also assisted and traveled with Dan Winters, a fortunate experience which prepared him with the necessary tools to explore the craft of photography. Conceptual humor is not only seen in his work but also displayed in his on set spirit.


Amy McCullough DESIGNER


Joseph Marcus


Elizabeth Standley


Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Lee Clippard


Lee Clippard


Dawn E. Hewitt


Lisa Gerber is a

print and textile artist who enjoys working with natural materials. Her background in earth science and environmental education influences much of her work. She lives in Ithaca, New York where she also works for Cornell University.

Phil Kline is a com-

mercial and editorial photographer who shoots portraits and still life. After receiving an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts,

Susan J. Tweit is

an award-winning writer and a plant ecologist who works to reweave the relationships that grow a healthy planet. She began her career studying wildfires, grizzly bear habitat and sagebrush communities before turning to writing. Her thirteen books include the forthcoming memoir “Bless the Birds: Living with Love in a Time of Dying,” hailed by author Craig Childs as a story that left him “awed and shaken.” Tweit’s work has appeared in magazines from Audubon and Popular Mechanics to High Country News and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in and writes from the high-desert West.

Leslie D. Zachary


Mike Abkowitz


Andrea DeLong-Amaya


Matt O’Toole


Carrie McDonald


Kit Detering Jeanie Carter SECRETARY Celina Romero CHAIR


Wildflower (ISSN 1936-9646) is published biannually by The University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave., Austin, TX 78739-1702. Copyright © 2022 by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Members of the Wildflower Center receive a subscription as a benefit of membership. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without the written consent of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The opinions expressed herein may not necessarily reflect those held by the Wildflower Center. Please direct any inquiries or letters to 512.232.0100 or magazine@wildflower.org. Materials are chosen for the printing and distribution of Wildflower magazine with respect for the environment. Wildflower is printed locally in Austin , Texas, by Capital Printing.

WILDFLOWER.ORG facebook.com/wildflowercenter @wildflowercenter @WildflowerCtr youtube.com/ WildflowerCenterAustin

PHOTOS (Peter d’Errico) Angela Taylor, (Lisa Gerber) Stephanie Friedman, (Phil Kline) Jeff Wilson, (Susan J. Tweit) Robert Muller

Peter d’Errico

artist and writer who grew up across the street from a greenbelt filled with native plants and wildflowers. Plant life is central to her art practice, which includes drawing, painting, photography and artist books. Her work is online at laurenmoyaford.com.

2022 | Volume 39, No. 1


Blankets of Color

FIREWHEEL Gaillardia pulchella

Celebrating our 2022 Wildflower of the Year by Amy McCullough

WHY WE LOVE THEM: A classic Texas

wildflower, firewheels flourish in all corners of the state, from humid pine forests and arid roadsides to coastal prairies, Big Bend and beyond (well beyond, into 34 other states, in fact). A scrappy annual species, they’re even known to pop up in sidewalk cracks. That’s resourceful! PREFERRED GARDEN ENVIRONMENT:

Dry to mesic soils in sun to part shade; common in disturbed areas; prefers good drainage FUN FACT: Some flowers are entirely

PHOTO Wildflower Center

yellow (perhaps a not-so-fun fact for those fond of flower identification). BRINGS THE BLOOMS: Look for brick

red flowers fringed in yellow from May to August — or later with plentiful rain. Adopt one for yourself or a loved one at wildflower.org/adopt.


GREAT BLANKETFLOWER Gaillardia aristata

WHY WE LOVE IT: Speaking of yellow Gail-

lardia species and tough IDs, this cheerful flower is a bit reminiscent of dandelions. We love its sunny color, brownish-orange disc flowers and fuzzy fruits (in fact, the entire plant is covered in fine hairs). PREFERRED GARDEN ENVIRONMENT:

Well-drained, moderately moist soil in sunny areas FAUNA FRIENDS: Like most members of its

genus, butterflies are drawn to its landingpad flowers. BRING THE BLOOMS: July through September

up in one word: lavender. Who knew blanketflowers came in this hue? Native to only 10 counties on Texas’ southeast side, this summer-blooming perennial also comes in white, not to mention a cultivar named ‘Grape Sensation’ that recalls bubblegum of the same color.



Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri

sun and well-drained, sandy soil; drought and heat tolerant

FRIENDS: This species supports bees, which are typically drawn to white, blue and yellow flowers. FAUNA

BRINGS THE BLOOMS: June through August,

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PHOTOS (left) Joseph Marcus, (right) Sally and Andy Wasowski

WHY WE LOVE IT: Our ardor can be summed

PINCUSHION DAISY Gaillardia suavis

WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s cute as a button — lit-

erally! Also known as rayless gaillardia, this species lacks ray flowers, or has them in short supply if they are present. With foliage only at the base (i.e., leafless stalks), pincushion daisy has the appearance of a colorful ball on a stick, making it unique in the garden and great for cut arrangements. PREFERRED GARDEN ENVIRONMENT:

Sandy or calcareous soils in full sun to part shade; medium water use SMELL CHECK: On a warm day, blooming

pincushion daisies fill the air with a pleasant aroma, hence another common name: perfumeballs.


Gaillardia aestivalis var. aestivalis

PHOTOS (top) Marian Reid, (bottom) Carolyn Fannon

WHY WE LOVE IT: Also known as prairie gail-

lardia, this is a showy, prolific bloomer with interesting flowers and attractive, narrow leaves. Its overall look is dainty and elegant. PREFERRED GARDEN ENVIRONMENT:

Dry, sandy soils in part shade; prefers good drainage PRO TIP: With deadheading and pinching

back, it will produce blooms until frost.

BRINGS THE BLOOMS: May to September

and beyond (see pro tip above)

Need more native plant info? Search our mobile-friendly Native Plants of North America database for bloom times, planting conditions and more: wildflower.org/plants-main For more on blanketflowers, see pages 36 and 48. |9


Arctic Aftermath

Explaining the strange growth in post-freeze trees by Raleigh Darnell

A freeze-damaged ash (Fraxinus spp.) tree with new growth at its base. PHOTO Texas Tree Surgeons

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NATIVE TREES OF TEX AS FAIRED FAR BETTER THAN WE DID during the bleak mid-February of 2021. This significant winter event, known as an arctic outbreak, barreled down the plains to hammer the entire state. Though tempered by blue northers past, our surviving trees did not weather this storm unscathed. You may have noticed trees in your neigh- when ranges overlap and hybridization ocborhood appearing to have stark, dead branch- curs. Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina), while a es and stems popping out of a stunted green far western native, experienced considerable canopy of foliage. Much of the new growth in damage in city parks and suburbs across the this spectral arrangement grows along the state. Other impacted natives included huisasides of partially dead branches, trunks and che (Vachellia farnesiana) and Mexican olive even near the bases of trees. (Cordia boissieri). Most trees with this growth What explanation is there for the misshapen response were likely caught sending out leaves trees we see? It has to do with different types or flowers too soon by the arctic chill, but for of growth. Meristems are active centers of each individual tree, natural complexity ocgrowth on trees, where plant cells differenti- curs across species and geographic ranges. ate to produce various tissues: stems, leaves Still, we are left wondering what will be the and flowers. Trees possess meristems with- future outlook for our trees. Guy LeBlanc, an in apical buds, those at the tips (or apexes) of ISA-certified arborist with over 30 years of exbranches. These apical buds function regu- perience, stated that “these epicormic shoots larly in a plant’s seasonal life cycle. However, have weak vascular connections compared to the severe cold and ice destroyed many apical apical shoots,” therefore epicormic shoots and buds in 2021. the trees, by extension, are prone to wind damAs a result, epicormic buds took over. These age, drought stress, fungal disease and other buds, also known as “suckers,” are dormant limiting factors as they develop over time. and reside underneath bark. As Joe Marcus, There are steps we can take now for our coordinator of the Center’s Native Plants of trees. LeBlanc emphasizes two main points North America database, explains, “Epicor- for consideration: “One, safety for people; and mic buds lying dormant along the boles and two, tree health.” Decaying branches on trees branches of a tree began to grow in the absence can pose a real threat to yourself, your house, of the growth-suppressing hormones present your neighbor or your cherry-red Mustang! in normal circumstances.” Whereas apical LeBlanc elaborates, adding that even with buds usually determine the growth and form careful trimming, “Decay is likely to spread of a tree above ground, epicormic shoots are a into the live parts (regardless of how it is retree’s emergency response to environmental moved).” Even years later, he says limbs can stressors such as winter storm damage. break from ongoing decay as they simultaneInternational Society of Arboriculture– ously grow heavier. You’ll want the advice of certified arborists and Texas A&M foresters an arborist who has the experience to deteracross the state observed several native tree mine if individual trees can be saved. species exhibiting this condition. A surprisYou might be singing the blues if one of your ing number of native oaks were damaged, favorite trees is removed, but more native such as post oak (Quercus stellata), Shumard trees survived than died in the face of winter oak (Q. shumardii), and water oak (Q. nigra). storm Uri. And many more will weather winLive oaks experienced damage also, though ter storms to come. properly identifying coastal (Q. virginiana) and escarpment (Q. fusiformis) is difficult For more on native trees, see page 44.

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IN THEIR Element

The Underdogs

Slugs and snails play a part in ecosystems too by Jill Sell

“GIANT AFRICAN LAND SNAILS INVADE TEX AS.” That could have been a sensational headline in newspapers about eight years ago — if it had been true. A Houston gardener reported seeing what initially was thought to be a giant African land snail (Lissachatina fulica). The rat-sized snail can carry parasites, dines on about 500 different species of plants, and can chew through plaster walls.

A Carolina mantleslug (Philomycus carolinianus) lounges on a bed of mushrooms. PHOTO chjars/iNaturalist

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The exotic snail is a problem in Florida, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assured nervous slime haters in Texas that the suspect was probably “either a wolf snail or rabdotus snail.” The snail in question was never located. Crisis averted. Many people find slugs and snails of any size repulsive and see them as nasty garden

pests. But native gastropods are generally less destructive than introduced, exotic slugs and snails. Dr. Jann Vendetti, assistant curator and Twila Bratcher, Chair in malacology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, points to Texas native mantlesnails, including Philomycus carolinianus and Megapallifera mutabillis, as “beautiful slugs … that

shouldn’t be a pest to gardens because they are primarily fungus and lichen eating, and found in and around rotting wood and damp forested habitats.” (Some gastropods will also eat fallen fruit, animal droppings and corpses — no doubt contributing to their ick factor.) Slugs and snails can also be found in urban settings if the right habitat is nearby. Vendetti emphasizes that “native plants are better for native wildlife in almost all cases.” But living native plants would likely not provide much habitat or resources for native gastropods. There has not been extensive research on the relationship between native plants and native slugs and snails. We do know that slugs are especially fond of non-native hosta, cabbage, strawberries and tomatoes. Ross Winton, invertebrate biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, notes, “Native snails adapt, grow along with native plants, and recycle nutrients for them.” Winton favors the small talus snails that live in crevices and crumbling rock in mountain ranges of West Texas. But he warns of more problematic, non-native gastropods that hitch rides in potted plants imported from outside the United States. Dr. Kathryn Perez, an associate professor of biology at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has a special interest in malacology (a branch of zoology dealing with mollusks). Perez has been one of the state’s leading researchers in Texas land snail studies. If you like snails, she believes maintaining diverse plants, including a few rocks (ideally limestone from which snails take nutrients to help build their shells), and not raking all fallen leaves in order to provide a food source, can help create a better native snail habitat. These actions would be recommended for other types of wildlife gardening, as well. But slugs can be a tough sell to most gardeners. Part of it may be the slime they leave behind, which actually helps smooth their pathways and mark territories. “Slugs have a particular kind of beauty,” says Vendetti. “They are not showy or colorful. They have a face, but not one we would particularly understand, typically with eyes on the end of eyestalks. It’s not like people say, ‘Yeah! It’s slug season. The slugs are back!’ We are aesthetic snobs.” Also, slugs and snails (the most obvious difference is that the latter have shells into which the animal can retreat) are not always considered “the most helpful organisms” Vendetti admits. “But in a forest environment or a situation where there is a lot of leaf litter, they eat a lot of decomposition, so they are important to the environment,” she says, noting the biggest threat to gastropods globally is lack of habitat. Texas has 198 species of land snails, according to Perez. Slug and snail species can be endemic — found nowhere else in the world except their limited habitat. An example is the winding mantleslug (Philomycus texanus), currently

Lichen is an irresistible snack for this changeable mantleslug (Megapallifera mutabilis) PHOTO dandybiologist/iNaturalist

only known to the Lost Pines loblolly (Pinus taeda) forest. Forty-two species of land snails are endemic to Texas. Winton believes 2021 was a good year for slugs and snails here because it was notably wet. “I saw a dozen species of snails just on my sidewalk after it rained,” he says. “Diversity is pretty high in Texas.” That said, even if a gardener creates a suitable, “beautiful environment with a stack of rotting logs or mounds of leaf litter, natives aren’t going to just show up,” says Vendetti, adding gastropods “can’t fly in.” (They can “walk” about a mile in a few days.) She encourages anyone interested in slugs and snails to visit iNaturalist. Uploading an image of a slug found in a backyard often brings a quick identification from professional and amateur malacologists. The site also helps scientists track the range of introduced gastropods. “Snails have to survive,” says Vendetti. “They are remarkable, bizarre, weird members in a larger cast of characters of biodiversity that are sometimes overlooked.” In other words, there is reason to root for these underdogs, slime and all. According to UTRGV’s Dr. Perez, a longtime Wildflower Center member played an important role in a recent snail development. Dr. Harry A. Miller, also a Texas master naturalist and retired veterinarian, and his son, Harry Miller IV, provided biologists with access to land that was instrumental in the discovery of a new species of snail. The species was named Miller’s spring snail (Pyrgulopsis harrymilleri) in their honor. | 13

KEEP THE SHOW ON THE ROAD Support the Botanic Garden of Texas with our license plate WILDFLOWER.ORG/DONATE/LICENSEPL ATE

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C U LT I PHOTOS (feathergrass) Sally and Andy Wasowski , (portraits) Joanna Wojtkowiak

Its thin, beautiful leaves blow beautifully in the wind. In fact, wind isn’t even necessary; the slightest breeze will get the super-light tendrils of this perennial grass moving. And their light green color is attractive in a variety of settings. Best of all, the leaves are soft to the touch, making them kid friendly and tactilely interesting. Kids love this grass because it provides many opportunities for great hiding spots. A youngster can disappear in a clump of feathergrass and imagine themselves to be invisible, yet to nearby adult eyes they are (thankfully) still in full view. Select “child friendly” and “ornamental grasses” on the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association’s Best of Texas database, and Mexican feathergrass is a top pick for good reason. This is a grass that is easy to maintain, fun to grow and rewarding in nature play settings. What’s not to love? Plant some feathergrass today!



Mexican feathergrass is ubiquitous in landscape design for a reason. It looks good everywhere and easily complements other plant combinations and/or hardscape elements such as stone or concrete.




PULL IT or Plant It



Tanya Zastrow











Minnette Marr


Mexican feathergrass, aka finestem needlegrass, naturally occurs on rocky slopes in the Chihuahuan Desert. If planted in more mesic habitats (i.e. prairies, savannahs) or irrigated landscapes, this cool-season perennial can become invasive. In fact, import is prohibited in Australia and South Africa. The thin leaves are avoided by grazing mammals in both rural and urban settings. As a result, fineleaf needlegrass can outcompete more palatable grasses. In sunny, well-drained settings, this grass will produce many long-awned achenes (a type of fruit) that hitchhike on fur, clothing and machinery. Alternatives vary by ecoregion. On the Edwards Plateau, Lindheimer’s muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) is a child-friendly grass that doubles as a hiding place. Along the Gulf Coast, hairawn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) would be a better choice. Slim tridens (Tridens muticus) is a good substitute and provides seeds for granivorous birds and squirrels in all regions west of the Piney Woods. If you have already planted Mexican feathergrass, consider pulling it before it becomes a problem in your yard … your neighbor’s yard … your neighborhood park … or beyond!

O N TH E OTH E R H A N D . . . According to the Center’s Native Plants of North America database, Mexican feathergrass can become invasive outside of its native range, given the right conditions. So proceed with caution!

Within its range and in well-managed landscapes, Mexican feathergrass can add a welcome softening touch to harder-edged plants and architecture in a garden setting.

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Garden Creepers

BLACK-AND-YELLOW GARDEN SPIDER Argiope aurantia Egg-shaped abdomen, typically shiny Long legs forming an X Yellow and black Look for: A web with a conspicuous “zipper” pattern

A glance at some common Central Texas spiders by Amy McCullough illustrations by Samantha N. Peters CREEPY? WELL, THAT’S SUBJECTIVE. Crawly? You bet they are. It’s a natural outcome of having legs in excess (okay, that’s biased too). While spiders might give some of us the willies, they are part of a garden’s ecology and help maintain balance in the insect world (some can even limit damage to flowers). Familiarize yourself with the arachnid aspects of a few common species below.

BOLD JUMPER Phidippus audax Abdomen typically black with three white spots Compact overall and fuzzy Central pair of eyes larger than the rest Look for: A long jump (Up to 50 times their own length!)

CRAB SPIDER Mecaphesa dubia Extremely common Often hairier than other members of Thomisidae Like other Mecaphesa spp., resembles a crab Telltale trait: A large, bulbshaped body and very long front legs 16 | W I L DF LOW E R

RABID* WOLF SPIDER Rabidosa rabida Frequently seen during daylight Earth tones such as brown, black and tan Telltale trait: Bold, dark lengthwise stripes on body *This spider does not carry rabies; in fact, no spiders do.

GREEN LYNX Peucetia viridans Moves rapidly and makes daring jumps Bright green body Abdomen tapered like a jalapeño pepper Look for: Long, slender pale legs with black spines

Native Plants of North America All the native plant knowledge you can handle — right at your fingertips

Support the database you love! Give Today BIT.LY/GIVE- N PONA | 17



Restoring a landscape’s ecology takes teamwork, experience and understanding by Susan J. Tweit

Beavers are critical to maintaining the health of wetlands and streams.PHOTO National Park Service / Neal Herbert

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asts We Need

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he wide, grassy, shrub-dotted valleys and forested plateaus of Yellowstone National Park’s “northern range,” the northern third of the nation’s oldest national park, are a nature photographer’s dream. Thousands of bison graze the grasslands along the clear waters of the Lamar River, their shaggy forms immense even at a distance; a bull elk, head low and forked antlers shining, herds a dozen cows into a sun-splashed grove of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides); and half a dozen pronghorn race through knee-high and fragrant big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). The pullouts along the river are crowded with visitors from around the world marveling at Yellowstone’s famed wildness and pristine landscapes. Yellowstone is indeed wild, but not at all pristine. Humans have lived in and managed these landscapes for at least 11,000 years, when quarrying began at Obsidian Cliff, where the glassy stone was mined for tool points. Twenty-seven Native American groups consider the park part of their homelands, including the Eastern Shoshone, whose Tukudika (or Sheep Eater) ancestors inhabited Yellowstone for millennia. The law that created Yellowstone National Park in 1872 also charged the U.S. Army, the precursor to the National Park Service, with protecting the Park’s natural resources, especially its magnificent herds of elk. Which back then meant forcibly removing any remaining residents, including Native Americans, and eliminating the “bloodthirsty beasts” who preyed on the elk, including northern gray wolves and mountain lions.

Elk Overload

Fifty years later, no wolf packs remained in the park, mountain lions were all but gone, and elk numbers had exploded. The 250,000acre northern range, a rich mosaic of grasslands, sagebrush, groves of quaking aspen, thickets of tall willow (Salix spp.), and conifer forest was beginning to fray like a threadbare carpet. Stands of aspen and willow, favored by elk for winter browse, were outright disappearing. Both of these woody native plants are critical to the health of the landscapes they green. Aspen groves on the northern range are biodiversity hot-spots of a sort, nourishing a rich 2 0 | W I L DF LOW E R

An overpopulation of elk can result in decimated vegetation and decreased biodiversity. PHOTO NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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variety of wildflowers in their shady understories and thus supporting many species of songbirds and pollinators, from warblers and vireos to fat-bodied bumblebees and night-flying moths. The drifts of shrubby willows along the streams maintain stream hydrology. Their arching branches shade the water and contribute nutrients from fallen leaves, and the anchoring of willows’ networked roots buffers stream banks against erosion. Without them, streams warm and channels widen, making them less hospitable to trout and other cold-water native fish. High flows incise v-shaped gullies and drop water tables, drying out whole valley bottoms. What happened? Predators are key to keeping Yellowstone’s northern range healthy, explains Senior Wildlife Biologist Doug Smith, leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Without these “keystone species,” species whose lives impact the entire ecosystem, populations of herbivores like elk expand to ecological carrying capacity, meaning they eat every bit of their food supply, which for elk is primarily grasses and wildflowers in summer, and aspen and willow sprouts in winter. (An adult elk consumes 15 to 24 pounds of grass, leaves, twigs, bark and lichens a day, depending on the animal’s weight.) “For most of the 20th century, we had an overpopulation of elk,” says Smith. “When they’re at that level, the vegetation is decimated.”

Beast Therapy

Enter wolves. In the winter of 1995 to 1996, 41 northern gray wolves were relocated to Yellowstone from Canada and northern Montana. Within two years, the northern range’s elk herd had plunged from an estimated 25,000 animals to around 5,000. Fattened by the elk supply, the park’s wolf population almost tripled in that time, to 112 animals. (At last count, the park’s wolf population was 123 animals; wolves from there have dispersed and formed packs as far away as northern Colorado.) Ten years after wolf reintroduction, elk populations were holding below 10,000 animals, and the northern range was recovering, led by a resurgence in aspen and willow sprouts. Trout numbers were up, and beaver, absent in the years of elk overgrazing and critical to maintaining wetlands and stream health, were beginning to return as well. 2 2 | W I L DF LOW E R

The ecological recovery of the northern range was soon cast as a redemption tale starring wolves, whose hunting pressure pushed elk out of the open areas along the stream bottoms and at the edges of the aspen groves. With elk avoiding these so-called risky areas of potentially high predation, the story went, willows had a chance to recover, and aspen groves and their rich wildflower understories were rejuvenated. Wolves, once reviled as bloodthirsty beasts, now starred in a feel-good tale. Only nature is not that simple. And just how much credit for the recovery of the northern range should go to wolves isn’t clear. Smith points out that the decline in elk numbers wasn’t entirely due to wolf predation; mountain lions, another top predator, had returned on their own; bear populations increased (grizzly bears eat elk calves); and an annual state of Montana winter hunt of elk that migrate out of the park all contributed significantly, removing an average of 1,000 elk each year through 2009.

The Big Picture

“Wolves do not have supreme ecological power,” says Dr. Dan MacNulty, predator biologist and associate professor at Utah State University. “There are a lot of other forces at play.” MacNulty and his colleagues analyzed location data from studies of radio-collared elk going back to 2001, testing the theory that wolf hunting pushes elk away from areas with high risk of predation, like aspen groves, thereby allowing aspen to recover from elk munching. The data showed essentially no link between elk movements and wolf distribution. The main factor tied to aspen recovery? Elk numbers. Fewer elk meant less browsing. “Rather than behavior, it’s density affecting the response of the woody vegetation,” says MacNulty. Aspen recovery is not universal, however; whole groves are dying out in some areas, especially around Buffalo Ranch in the Lamar Valley, says Dr. Luke Painter of Oregon State University, who with his colleagues has studied regeneration of the iconic trees on the northern range. That’s at least partly due to one effect of fewer elk: more bison. “There were 500 bison on the northern range when I came to work at the park in 1994, now there are over 3,000,” says Smith. “Biomass-wise, we may have swapped >>

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in the mid-1990s to help control the park’s elk population. The wolves have since grown in number, dispersing and forming packs as far away as northern Colorado. PHOTO NPS / Doug Smith

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Since 1994, the bison population in Yellowstone’s northern range has increased by about 2,500. PHOTO NPS / Jacob W. Frank

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Beavers are scarce in Yellowstone, due to a lack of healthy willows and aspen. The plants were decimated by elks and are expected to take decades to fully recover. PHOTO NPS / Neal Herbert

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bison for elk. One bison accounts for the food intake of approximately three elk, so you can do the math.” Painter notes that one important ecological role of bison is to maintain grassland by browsing out woody plant species. “But on the northern range they’re doing it in an area where we would like to see recovery of those species, especially aspen, willows and cottonwoods.” Aspen recovery is also impacted by climate change, especially drought. “Studies show aspen are extremely sensitive to drying,” explains MacNulty. The lower elevations of the northern range around Mammoth Hot Springs and North Gate may be most affected, because they’re at the lower elevation end of the natural range of aspen. Willow recovery post-wolf-reintroduction is also uneven, partly due to the burgeoning bison population. Retired Yellowstone Park botanist Jennifer Whipple recalls getting excited when she saw a stand of shrubby willows recolonizing an area near Soda Butte Creek where the plants were historically abundant but had been grazed to nubs for decades. The stand was looking good, and then along came a herd of bison: “They just mowed those willows down.”

Ripple Effects

In some drainages on the northern range, willow recovery is complicated by the disappearance of another beast people often love to hate: beavers. These buck-toothed rodents were common in the park before elk overpopulation, says Smith, and are essential to stream health. Beavers cycle up and down drainages, he explains, settling to build dams and ponds wherever willows and aspen are abundant, and moving on once they have harvested all the available food and building materials. When beavers leave, the aspen regrow and the ponds empty, providing mineral soil for willows to reseed. Once their food grows back, beavers return, and begin the cycle again. As aspen and willow vanished under the browsing of too many elk, beavers moved away, leaving streams to erode gouges into the landscape. These drainages need beavers to recover, notes Smith. But without healthy willow and aspen growth, beavers can’t come back. “Recovery is going to take decades,” he says. “It will exceed my career.” Bringing back keystone species like wolves and beavers is clearly critical to the health

of the park’s native plant communities. It’s a two-way street though. The plants can also impact the beasts, as the story of beavers shows — the story of wolves too, at least in small ways. Whipple surveyed the plants on the sites chosen for wolves’ release pens. At one, she found a sedge species (Carex leptalea) never before recorded for the park. That pen was relocated: Protecting the tiny sedge trumped the needs of returning wolves.

Beyond Old Faithful


Carex leptalea was recorded in Yellowstone for the first time shortly before wolves were reintroduced to the park. PHOTO Peter M. Dziuk/Minnesota

Whipple recalls the day when the first group of wolves were trucked into the park. She and other park employees stood along the road in the predawn hours to watch the horse trailers with wolf crates go by. “I found myself crying,” she says. “We were returning one of the park’s iconic species — and in the doing, we scored a new plant species too.” Restoring the beasts we once feared and vilified enriches our understanding of just how complex ecosystems are, and demonstrates again the intricate interconnections between species. And as Whipple’s experience testifies, it touches something deep within us too, perhaps our ancestral bond with the wild.

Yellowstone National Park is famous for its wildlife and geysers, but park botanist Heidi Anderson says its native plant diversity is impressive as well, with 1,061 native plant taxa (species and subspecies) identified so far, including three endemic plants found nowhere else on earth: Ross’ bentgrass (Agrostis rossiae), Yellowstone sand verbena (Abronia ammophila) and Yellowstone sulfur wild buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. cladophorum). The park’s herbarium houses 22,000 specimens, from mosses and mushrooms to whitebark pines — plus aquatic plants: “We probably have the best collection of aquatic plants in western North America,” Anderson says. The oldest accessions — two species of groundsel (Packera cana and Senecio integerrimus) — were collected in 1899; those, she notes with pride, still grow in the park more than a century later. TOP Eriogonum umbellatum PHOTO James L. Reveal, BOTTOM Senecio integerrimus PHOTO Terry Glase

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WILD YARDS Defending natural landscapes amid city ordinances, HOAs and prim lawns by MELISSA GASKILL

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Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) take center stage in a Nebraskan front lawn. PHOTO Benjamin Vogt

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The Modines snapped this photo of their front yard around the same time code enforcement paid them a visit.

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SU N F LOWE RS S HOWE D U P on Cecilia and Larry Mondine’s corner lot in South Austin years ago. At first, the volunteer plants were mown along with the rest of the lawn. Then Larry began to recognize the early summer sprouts and steer his mower around them. After that, more and more flowers came up each year, and the summer of 2021 brought a bumper crop. That’s when the trouble started.

“The year was particularly abundant and wonderful,” says Cecilia Mondine. “People kept coming to see them and saying how beautiful they were. We kept the sidewalk clear and realized we might have an issue with the fire hydrant, so we cleared around that, and kept an eye on the visibility from the corner stop sign. Visibility wasn’t impaired and we didn’t think there’d be a problem. Then we got a knock on the door from code enforcement.” The Mondines were told to cut the flowers down. They weren’t happy about that, and said so on their neighborhood Nextdoor site. “Boy, what a reaction,” Cecilia says. “People offered to help us if we had to pay a fine, or to help pay for court costs. Everyone said, ‘Please don’t cut them down.’ So, we didn’t. We thought, they aren’t going to last forever, we’ll thin them out as they start dying back.” No city mowing crew ever showed up and, by fall, the sunflowers had completed their life cycle and made the issue moot. GROWTH INCENTIVES Other homeowners have not been so lucky, finding themselves confronted by a city or

county crew that has come to cut down their plants, or landing in court. But “wild” yards are far from the nuisance and threat many city ordinances and homeowner association rules paint them to be, and people are starting to fight back against the traditional — and many say outdated — mown and trimmed aesthetic. Traditional lawns seldom take into account local geography, climate or history. They look essentially the same in Vermont or Arizona. “We’ve had it pounded into our heads for 400 years that a neat lawn with a row of roses is the ultimate sign of success,” says David Newsom, founder of the Wild Yards Project, a California-based nonprofit that supports turning yards into native habitat. “People have to be retrained. Part of that is re-orienting the conversation. While some people are concerned about catastrophic loss of biodiversity – 40% declines in insects, 30% in birds – a lot of others hear ‘biodiversity’ and just start scrolling on Twitter. “My conversations now are how to make healthier and more resilient urban systems. More people want to hear that. It’s important

Yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), black sage (Salvia mellifera), blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) mingle in this backyard garden. PHOTO David Newsom

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for people to understand the role native gardens can play in making our lives healthier, cooler and more survivable.” That includes making families healthier. Newsom and his wife, who grew up playing in the woods of New England, created a wilderness in their urban yard as a way to offer their own children engagement with nature, even in Northeast L.A. Because many people do not understand how plants and habitat play into overall quality of life, he warns, the fight must be fought over and over again. “The legal aspect is moving very slowly, and recognition of the value of these ecosystems is not there collectively.” Homeowners run up against city and county statutes against “weeds” over a certain height — laws that mostly originated to protect agricultural crops and livestock from plants that might harm them — or that prohibit landscapes that attract “pests.” The people enforcing those statutes seldom know much about plants; they just know their job is to enforce a law that says, for example, that a landscape cannot attract rodents.

“When you garden for biodiversity, you have healthier soil, your yard is sequestering carbon and filtering water — suddenly you have a dynamic system.” Because a native landscape creates habitat for wildlife, in theory it may attract more “pests” than a traditional lawn. “That gets into what is a pest, though, and that is in the eye of the beholder,” says Joe Marcus, coordinator of the Center’s Native Plants of North America database. “More wildlife isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” He cites monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) as an example. “There was this huge outpouring of support for monarchs once the word got out that they needed help,” he explains. That included people putting native plants in their yard to support butterflies. CULTIVATE AND DISSEMINATE John Hart Asher of Blackland Collaborative in Austin says that when a homeowner demonstrates the value of native habitat, city and county authorities often work with them. “You have to help them understand what you’re 32 | W I L DF LOW E R

trying to do and the benefit the neighborhood is getting out of this,” he says. Part of the problem is that these rules are seldom specific. There may be, for example, height limitation on “weeds” but no specifics about just what constitutes a weed. “The rules need to be rewritten, naming specific species that are prohibited, such as Johnsongrass [Sorghum halepense], allowing natives, and providing for different heights for different kinds of plants,” Asher says. “Some city employees get that the rules are outdated,” he acknowledges. “They were written to keep people from doing bad stuff, and now we have an educated populace that wants to do good stuff within an area that technically qualifies as bad.” HOA rules can be another major obstacle, as they are often written to encourage those traditional manicured landscapes — and uniformity. In Texas, a state law, SB 198, says HOAs cannot prevent people from planting drought-resistant landscaping or water-conserving natural turf. However, that law offers little help to those fighting an HOA over something like native shrubs that may not be pruned in a traditional way — or a patch of tall sunflowers. In addition to educating others about native plants, it is important for homeowners to make it obvious that a wild landscape is intentional. Some ways to do that include borders or buffers around patches of native plants, benches and even signage that identifies plants. Marcus says a homeowner’s best bet may be to join their HOA board. With government agencies, finding someone sympathetic or willing to listen can be key. Newsom agrees and advises seizing the opportunity to talk about why you are using native landscaping. “When you garden for biodiversity, you have healthier soil, your yard is sequestering carbon and filtering water — suddenly you have a dynamic system,” he says. “Perennial shrubs, with their dense leaf structures but relatively shallow root systems, capture and sink an enormous amount of carbon while releasing proportionately far less than trees when they die, making them excellent plants for battling global warming.” Native landscapes do not attract rodents or other supposed pests any more than, say, an apple tree or tomato bush, or your trash, he adds. A PARADIGM SHIFT “Creating natural settings in your yard freaks some people out, yet is no different than a

vegetable garden or a walk in the woods, things that most people think are okay. At the rate of 40 million acres of lawn in the US and increasing every day, we can’t afford not to [change],” says Newsom. Your yard becomes alive, and to be surrounded by something positive and alive when there is so much negative out there, is undeniable. “Lead by example and be willing to fight the fight, because it is worth it. It gives people hope and agency. You’re not just gardening for bees and butterflies, which is enough, but it is the smart way ahead for urban and suburban design.” Asher notes that it is essentially a paradigm shift, from a simple understanding of what a landscape should be to a much more diverse approach, one that addresses things such as habitat, heat island mitigation, air and water quality, and carbon sequestration. “A lot more people now understand that and are open to it, but the legal aspect has to catch up. We need at least two-thirds of every yard to be native habitat in order to stop the sixth mass

extinction,” he says, referring to studies that show Earth is in the midst of an ongoing and accelerating loss of hundreds of species, the sixth such event in 450 million years. The previous five were caused by catastrophic alteration of the environment, including massive volcanic eruptions and collision with an asteroid. “This is literally how we save the world.” The Mondines were encouraged by all the support for their sunflowers from the community and the neighborhood. “We had people coming up to us all the time and waving at us from cars and saying, I love your sunflowers,” says Cecilia. “We’re going to do it again next year.”

The right mixture of native plants can turn your front yard into a pollinator’s paradise. PHOTO fieldoutdoor spaces.com

For more advice on how to start landscapechange conversations with HOAs, visit wildflower.org/magazine/landscapes/swayyour-hoa. For tips on gardening for wildlife, visit wildf lower.org/magazine/native-plants/ living-space. | 33

CENTERED: News and Updates

The latest on our gardens and our work by Amy McCullough and Elizabeth Standley

FIELDING STUDENTS THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUStin’s College of Natural Sciences recently added the Wildflower Center to its growing field station network. This designation allows us to work more closely with university students and researchers. Dr. Sean Griffin (top left) will serve as the Center’s first Director of Science and Conservation, building upon our long-standing research program and facilitating new collaborations across the university and state. “The Wildflower Center has a long history of supporting impactful research,” said Lee Clippard, interim executive director. “The field station designation, along with Dr. Griffin’s appointment, recognizes those contributions and expands opportunities for the Center to serve university students and faculty. It also prom-

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ises to broaden the reach of our science and conservation programs to benefit the people and landscapes of Texas.” The Wildflower Center’s mixed oak-juniper savanna along the Balcones Escarpment features intermittent drainages and a network of cave and karst features ripe with research possibilities. David Hillis, professor of integrative biology and director of UT’s Biodiversity Center, said: “Field stations like this will help us to gain scientific insights into the state of ecological health in critical areas across Texas now, as well as to develop strategies, as habitats change, for better land management, ecological restoration, water and ecosystem preservation, invasive species management, and resilience in the future.” – E.S.


PHOTOS (opposite page) Sloan Breeden, (this page from top) The Arc of the Capital Area, John W. Clark

THE ARC OF THE CAPITAL AREA and the Wildflower Center have partnered to provide activity space and innovative programming for Central Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since July 2021, Arc students have come to the Center twice a week to engage in post-secondary classes with topics ranging from outdoor recreation and life skills to nature-based art and social interaction. “The Center is excited to work together with The Arc of the Capital Area to provide space for a great group of adult students to experience and explore nature under the guidance of instructors from The Arc twice a week. I look forward to establishing relationships with more Austin nonprofits, which we can help support through access partnerships,” says Dawn Hewitt, director of community engagement and exhibitions at the Wildflower Center. On an autumn visit, Arc students used natural components such as twigs and leaves to create pictures of animals. – A.M.

PROPAGATION PROPS SUSAN PROSPERIE, A WILDFLOWER CENTER propagation specialist, received the 2021 Nancy Benedict Memorial Award from the Native Plant Society of Texas in honor of her conservation work. From 2013 to 2017, Susan led the Center’s Lost Pines recovery project, an effort to help replace loblolly pines (Pinus taeda) that were destroyed in the Bastrop County Complex Fire. With the assistance of hundreds of volunteers, Susan grew more than 250,000 loblolly pines for the affected region. Her work helped rejuvenate both the Lost Pines forest and the Bastrop community. NPSOT also recognized Susan’s contribution to Project Milkweed, the Center’s effort to help the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service engage Texas growers in the cultivation of local ecotypes that support monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and many other beneficial insects. Known among her colleagues as the “milkweed mamma,” Susan helped grow thousands of native milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) for the project. – E.S.

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NOMINATIONS AND CELEBRATIONS OUR ANNUAL WILDFLOWER OF THE YEAR debuted in 2021, with sunflowers taking the title thanks to their cheerful color, resilience in landscapes and widespread benefits to wildlife. This year, staff voted for several flower nominees and selected Gaillardia species, or blanketflowers. A well-loved Texas icon, firewheels and other blanketflowers are recognizable, boldly colored, easy to grow and widespread. They’re also tough, growing in a variety of environments and across the country. The fact that they support butterflies and bees doesn’t hurt, either.


Speaking of years, 2022 marks the Wildflower Center’s 40th anniversary. We’ll be celebrating with a special dinner and day of activities in October. Keep an eye on your inbox and follow us on social media to stay apprised and learn about this important garden and organization, including our mission inspiring the conservation of native plants and more on our founder and founding. – A.M.



The Wildflower Center would like to acknowledge these generous donors and their gifts:

AS THE CENTER GROWS, so do the needs of its

Ann Moore: $75,000 Lady Bird Society pledge

Anonymous: $400,000 planned gift

Kathryn “Katy” E. Stein: $100,000 planned gift

Matt Warnock Turner: $137,000 addition to an existing planned gift

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guests and gardens. Over the past year, we’ve made several improvements, including a new patio roof at Wildflower Café, which includes pleasant lighting and large fans to keep diners cool and comfortable. We also saw the removal and replacement of the long, narrow arbor on the south side of our Theme Gardens. While mature mustang grapes (Vitis mustangensis) were lost with the decaying arbor, vibrant American wisterias (Wisteria frutescens) are making themselves right at home, twisting and curving all around the new cedar posts. – A.M.

PHOTO Wildflower Center

Read more about blanketflowers on pages 7 and 48.

CENTERED: Things We Love

The habitat champions, lodgings and conservation efforts we’re currently into by Wildflower Center Staff



PHOTOS (left) Getaway, (right) Toyota

It might seem odd that places so Instagrammable come with a “cellphone lockbox,” but that is part of Getaway’s gimmick: that you unplug – for real. If you must share, they suggest a #latergram after you’ve left one of their tinyyet-comfortable cabins. Central Texas options include Getaway Hill Country near Wimberley and Getaway Brazos Valley northwest of Houston. (I have enjoyed time at both, and they’re the only lodgings I can recently recall staying at right until checkout because I just didn’t want to leave that big bed by the window.) Bonus: The cabins are dog-friendly and come with everything you might need, including in-cabin provisions and local firewood for purchase; use something and they add it to your bill – simple! They’re a little pricey on desirable dates (e.g., $299 per night for two adults plus one dog on an upcoming Saturday), but the solace, smart design and supremely chill vibes of the entire situation are well worth it. (They also offer loyalty and refer-a-friend discounts.) And some of what they rake in supports artists in residence. They even provide campfire recipes, complimentary s’mores (for humans and canines) and local hiking recommendations. Best of all, Getaway’s message is one of inclusion; as gay founder and CEO Jon Staff puts it, “We have built a space where you can go, and you can be comfortable, and you can be yourself.” That’s what relaxing in nature should be all about. Amy McCullough Assistant Director of Communications / Editor of Wildflower magazine getaway.house


Toyota Motor North America When is a car company not just a car company? When it becomes actively involved in environmental issues and defines a biodiversity target to “operate in harmony with nature.” In 1999, Toyota joined the Wildlife Habitat Council, a group of corporations, conservation organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat. The WHC issues conservation certificates to corporations that meet certain biodiversity enhancement and environmental education goals. To date, Toyota has received 13. Toyota also belongs to the Suppliers Partnership for the Environment, an organization supporting automotive manufacturers and suppliers working together on environmental issues. In 2019, its Pollinator Project Challenge tasked companies with creating pollinator gardens on their sites. Toyota now has 17 such locations along monarch (Danaus plexippus) migration paths. These gardens are part of nearly 200 sites managed by partnership members, which translates into some 2,400 acres of corporate land being used for wildlife habitat. Toyota’s biodiversity statement says the company is committed to “building healthy ecosystems so that future generations may continue to enjoy the natural wonders of our world.” What’s not to love? Frances Cushing Assistant to the Volunteer Manager toyota.com/usa/environmentreport/ biodiversity.html


Cherokee Nation Seed Bank The Cherokee Nation Seed Bank provides opportunities for members of the Cherokee Nation to participate in cultivating the plants that are important to their culture. As curator of the Wildflower Center Seed Bank, I appreciate their efforts to maintain the genetic lines and provide connections to the plants that were the basis for the agriculture and ceremonies of their ancestors. By offering seeds annually for members to grow and banking seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank is incorporating the best of tradition and technology. Minnette Marr Conservation Botanist & Research Associate secure.cherokee.org/seedbank

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CENTERED: Thank You, Donors

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Recognizing contributions given from Sept. 1, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2021

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*Lady Bird Society | Society members sustain the work of the Center by pledging unrestricted annual gifts for three years or more, providing a stable source of funding for key programs. **In memoriam 3 8 | W I L DF LOW E R

Robert E. Shrader/ Texas Instruments Foundation Contessa and Greg Skelton Judith Smerlis Mary Ann Neely and C. Craig Smith Kathryn Stein Charlotte Strange Kay and Jim Stueve Janice and Ross Taylor Larry E. Temple/ Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund Christine Ten Eyck and Gary Deaver* Jan Treybig Alexander Tschursin* Paul D. Wade Elaine L. Wagner Mary Jane Wakefield Carol Walsh-Knutson and Kelley Knutson* Mary and Roger Wallace* Serene and Christopher Warren* Mary Watson/The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida Banford Weissmann* Kenneth Wells Donald Wertz and David Lowery Lyn D. White Carolyn Whitehead Eric Williams Charlynn Yonikas Mollie Zachry

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Can Do

A Mexican tulip poppy (Hunnemannia fumariifolia), practically leaping off the page. DRAWING Lauren Moya Ford

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Drawing From Nature Take your connection with plants to a new level by Lauren Moya Ford V ISI T I NG A GA R DE N IS A WON DE R F U L WAY TO E X PE R I E NCE NAT U R E ’ S beauty. But to really take notice of what’s going on with the trees, grasses and flowers around you, try drawing them on your next trip. Drawing sharpens our observation skills far beyond simply looking. And plants — which are mostly still, aside from the occasional flying insect or gust of wind — are fascinating, fitting subjects. When we try to depict what’s in front of us by putting a pencil to paper, our sense of attention is heightened, and we suddenly see things that would normally escape our view. As an added bonus, drawing plants often brings us to a more meditative, slow-paced state that feels creative, but also relaxing. And despite what you may think, anyone can draw. Yes, anyone! All you need are a pencil or pen and paper; no training or degrees are required. Follow these tips for help on discovering a new way to connect with nature on your next experience in the great outdoors.


It can be overwhelming to know how to begin when you’re standing in front of a large field of flowers or a tree with dense foliage. Start

The artist’s impression of Yellow pond lilies (Nuphar lutea). DRAWING Lauren Moya Ford


It’s hard to focus on a drawing when you’re freezing cold or burning hot, so check the weather before heading out to sketch. Early mornings tend to be good for avoiding heat and crowds, and partly cloudy days or gardens with plenty of shade will keep you from getting too much exposure. Don’t forget essentials like a hat, sunscreen, sturdy shoes and water. Consider taking along a magnifying glass, too, and perhaps a portable stool if seating isn’t readily available at your destination. This way, you can get close and be comfortable while drawing. With these needs met, you’ll be more likely to immerse yourself in your work — and achieve better results. Spiral bound, hardcover sketchbooks are nice for outdoor sketching because they’re easy to carry and offer a solid surface to draw on. Don’t forget to bring a couple extra pens or pencils (plus a sharpener and eraser if a pencil is your preference). | 41

with a single branch or flower, and then focus on an even smaller feature, such as a single leaf or petal. From there, the plant will slowly take shape as your drawing expands out, capturing one detail at a time. You might even be able to catch a passing butterfly or bee in your picture. Don’t worry if your sketch doesn’t look exactly like what’s in front of you. The point is to observe and enjoy nature, not necessarily to make a replica of it. And if you feel frustrated by a sketch, you can always start again. Make sure to purchase a sketchbook with plenty of pages so that you don’t have to worry about running out of space to work, experiment and grow. By the end of your visit, and as you continue to practice drawing over time, you’ll see signs of progress and improvement. Even better: Over the weeks and months, you’ll have created a unique diary of your encounters with nature and of the passage of time.


On days when you can’t make it to a park or garden, practice drawing your potted houseplants, backyard greenery or flower bouquets. If your usual sketching style starts to feel a bit constricting, explore different techniques. Try drawing only a plant’s outline or silhouette, or challenge yourself to draw using one single line, capturing your subject without lifting your pencil from the paper. You can also try out new materials and formats. Find inspiration in other artists who’ve worked with plants in the past. Check out, for example, Mary Delany’s cut-paper botanical collages, Ellsworth Kelly’s plant lithographs, Elizabeth Blackadder’s watercolors of flowers and David Hockney’s iPad drawings of his garden for ideas. Finally, return to nature over time. Shifting seasons will bring exciting changes to the plants’ appearances and will present new opportunities for making a fresh set of drawings.

Take a cue from David Hockney (creator of the digital painting above) and use an iPad in lieu of traditional art supplies. It’s easier to transport, and you won’t run out of pages. iPAD PAINTING David Hockney, 16th March 2020, © David Hockney

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Plant People

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Rip Van Winkle in New Braunfels

Leon and Becky Dominick grow trees, arborists and hope by Amy McCullough photo by Phil Kline IT ’S H A R D TO BELIEV E LEON DOMINICK W HEN HE SAYS, “I didn’t really know a pine tree hardly from an oak tree before we got involved in all this stuff.” It’s hard to believe because “all this stuff” refers to an 11-acre private arboretum on his property, home to over 700 trees, mostly native, and three ecosystems: a savanna, a prairie and a riparian area. When Leon and his wife, Becky, relocated from the Houston area to the Hill Country, they knew they wanted to “kinda go a little over the top on the landscaping,” as Leon (who owned a construction/engineering consulting firm before retiring) puts it. That’s an understatement. They began planting in 2008 and haven’t stopped since. And they’re not just growing trees. As members of a plant enthusiast community, they use their arboretum, near Canyon Lake in New Braunfels, to educate and inspire others. From making seed balls and recommending native milkweeds to their neighbors to hosting master naturalist groups and state biologists on site tours, the Dominicks, both Louisiana natives, hope to cultivate future generations of conservation-minded land stewards.

Over cinnamon biscuits and milk in their spacious kitchen — and, after, walking the freshly mulched trail through their ambitious retirement project — they enthusiastically (and humbly) explain their journey from being “dumber than rocks” to having a very special, thriving tree collection all their own. AM: A personal arboretum is quite the pet project. Tell me about its genesis. LD: Becky and I are both certified landscape design consultants. BD: — and master gardeners. LD: In getting involved in all of that, we ended up meeting a lot of the movers and shakers in that field [including Wildflower Center staff] who know a lot more than we do. Alan

(Opposite page) Leon and Becky Dominick at their private arboretum near Canyon Lake.

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King with Land Design Group became good friends with us. When we purchased this property, we asked him [for guidance]. Alan asked us, “What is the house gonna be like?” I said, “I don’t know, but whatever it’s gonna be, it’s gonna have to match the landscape design,” so we kind of did things in reverse. How did you decide which species to add to the existing trees? LD: When Alan presented his plan, I said, “Alan, why do we need 20 different trees? We’ve already got trees all over place.” He said, “Believe me, we want to provide some biodiversity and we want to layer the landscape so we have different canopies for certain animals and mid-levels for other animals to nest in.” Then I started understanding what he was saying … and we started looking at just native plants. We have a lot of oaks that we inherited when we moved in. Suppose the oak wilt that’s hitting Comal County and surrounding counties hit here. So we said, let’s get some different oaks and different types of species, and it just kept growing and growing. What’s a memorable trial-and-error experience you’ve had? BD: We learned really soon that you have to have a pickaxe to actually plant a tree here. LD: I was on the hill down there, digging a hole. [Becky] walks out on the patio and yells down, “What have you been doin’ for three hours?!” And I held up this Houston shovel and said, “This tool doesn’t work here!” So it ended up being a learning lesson. I put a redbud in that hole, and a year later, it died. I realized, only later, there’s a lot of water seeping underneath the hill, and all I did was dig a bowl that held water. So it died because redbuds don’t like their feet to be wet. I told Becky, “Hey, I’ve got too much sweat equity in this hole. [He laughs.] We have to replace it with something else,” and so I put a bald cypress there. And it’s just doing great. Have you seen more diverse wildlife over the course of the project? BL: We even have bats out here, and we have owls, so a big diversity. We had a yellowcheeked warbler, and we have foxes. The foxes have gotten so used to us, they’ll just sit on the retaining walls. We just had a mountain lion come through … and bobcats … and ringtail 4 6 | W I L DF LOW E R

cats. The butterflies and hummingbirds this year have been just incredible. LD: It’s been kind of a mixed bag. Certain animals and certain plants have begun to thrive. Other ones seem to fade away. What’s been one of the greatest challenges, other than deer? We only have this thin soil. Alan said, “I think we have a quarry in the front of your house … we could harvest those rocks and make big beds and choose our own soil to put in there.” So we moved about 900 tons of rock from the front to the back and just terraced things down the hill. We have about an 80-foot drop down to the lake. It gives us a little more flexibility about what we can plant. What’s something surprising that you’ve learned? LD: We learned that the only saplings that were growing [before we planted here] were those that were protected by agarita. Don’t mess with your agarita. Do you have a favorite tree, species or a particular one, on site? BD: I like the goldenball leadtree. LD: This is a good one. The location that was supposed to be the driveway entrance, a little cedar elm ended up being right in the center. The superintendent came and said, “What do you wanna do? This tree is right in the middle of the driveway.” I said, “Move the driveway.” And so that cedar elm just responded, “THANK YOU!” Now it’s got a trunk like this. [Leon demos its girth with his hands.] It’s got the most perfect classic, columnar shape. So you didn’t grow up with a particular interest in trees? LD: Here’s the truth, when people would ask me when I was younger, “What do you wanna do, for your career?” I’d tell them, “I want to be a shade-tree tester, you know, like Rip Van Winkle.” [He laughs.] But I didn’t really know anything about trees other than they provided shade — a cool spot to sleep! Had it not been for the Wildflower Center and the people we learned from in the industry, we would be dumber than rocks. We still have so much to learn. Dominick Arboretum is not open to the public.

Nature Is the Best Teacher



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Wild Life

Gaillardia pulchella


Indian blanket

Girasol rojo

What’s in a Name? On blankets, firewheels and “Indians”

by Peter d’Errico illustration by Lisa Gerber

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WHEN JULIET YEARNED FOR ROMEO across the abyss of family rivalry, she said, “’Tis but thy name that is my enemy.” Alas, her love with Romeo was not to be: They went to their tragic deaths, caught and separated by a conflict of names. Names have power, and naming is a power. Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday, in “The Names: A Memoir,” said names sometimes reveal, sometimes conceal identities. I’ve thought a lot about names over the decades I’ve taught and litigated about issues affecting Indigenous peoples of this continent. When you come at “Indian” this way, from a historical, legal matter, it is obvious the name is the result of a mistake. Columbus didn’t know where he was. He thought he was going to India and insisted he had arrived, so he named the people Indians. “Native American” is an equally fake name that came into vogue as political correctness. How can a people be “natives” of an entity (i.e., “America”) that they preexist? Santee Dakota poet, musician and activist John Trudell, with his typical wit, observed, “They change our name and treat us the same.” In short, “Indian,” “Native American” and “American Indian” are not authentic names. To be authentic, we have to inquire into the language of each people to find the name they call themselves. It is not surprising to find that the deepest real names are often a tribe’s word for “people,” or for their homeland. Trudell put it this way: “We’re not Indians and we’re not Native Americans. We’re older than both concepts. We’re the people. We’re the human beings.” In 1994, Anishinaabe author Gerald Vizenor (whose tribe was named “Ojibwe” by Europeans) ratcheted up the criticism when he said “Indian” is a “simulation in the literature of dominance.” The word perpetuates the original colonizing confusion (and the damage therein). We may not think of colonialism when we use “Indian” to name plants and places across the continent, but the fact of language ties us to that history. Gaillardia pulchella is a good example. The USDA lists the flower as “Indian blanket,” matching common usage. Some people, understanding Vizenor’s logic, reject “Indian Blanket” as a false name. The USDA accommodates, saying an alternative common name is “firewheel.” The Wildflower Center refers to both names and adds the Spanish “girasol rojo” (red sunflower). There are others, equally appreciative of the flower, who fly into a rage about name changes they perceive to be about political correctness — or, in the latest iteration, “cancel culture.”

There is something to think about there: Changing a name does history a disservice by removing colonial terms, thereby removing from consideration the important topics they raise. An argument toward historical accuracy compels attention to documents and reflection on word origins, whereas revision for feelings or sensitivity is wholly subjective. One proposed middle ground is continued use of historically erroneous names only with historical and cultural contextualization (an approach recently adopted by The University of Texas at Austin in relation to certain campus monuments). In this case, that approach would list “firewheel” first, followed by “Indian blanket” with an explanatory phrase. Another way out of this naming battle would be to accept the variety of other names for the plant, not only firewheel, but “beach blanket-flower,” “bedding gaillardia” and just plain “blanket flower.” Perhaps the best way to resolve the conflict would be to bring the warring sides into dialogue (always a good thing), asking each to think about the scientific name for the plant’s genus. Gaillardia was chosen by a French botanist who grew the plant in his Paris laboratory in 1786 from seed gathered in Louisiana to honor his patron, the magistrate Gaillard de Charentonneau. What does that name have to do with authenticity, native or otherwise? Similarly, Linum lewisii is the scientific name for a blue flax, named after Meriwether Lewis, who gathered it along his expedition. His partner, Clark, got two namesakes: Clarkia amoena and C. elegans. The point being, if we widen the discussion, we’ll see “political” aspects in lots of plant names that don’t involve “Indian.” Strange as it seems, wildflower names do bear the burden of Columbus’ confusion, raising historical questions about natives, immigrants, invaders and colonizers. Wildflowers can provoke awareness of history and culture. To speak of “Indians” is to participate in colonialism (even if one speaks of oneself). To reshape our vocabulary is to confront history and all its imperfections in the present — where else can it be confronted? At the root of the matter is an ontological question: Who are we? What better opportunity to do this very difficult work than by sharing our appreciation for the beauty of a wildflower? As a bonus we come to realize beauty is beyond the power of words to define, but that words are all we have, and we must use them wisely.

For more on blanketflowers, see pages 7 and 36. | 49

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Cultivate Your Legacy Share your love of nature and inspire future generations to improve our world through native plant conservation. Include the Wildflower Center in your estate planning to leave a lasting legacy. TO LEARN MORE: wildflower.org/donate/planned-giving Leslie Zachary, 203.984.9001 lzachary@wildflower.org Genevieve Hughes, 312.502.8480 genevieve.hughes@austin.utexas.edu

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