CO-Horts Blog

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Sense of Place: Deep in the Heart of Texas!

Posted by: Deryn Davidson, Boulder County Extension

You know the tune… “The stars at night! Are big and bright! (clap, clap, clap, clap) Deep in the heart of Texas!” I recently got to spend a fun filled week deep in the heart of the Texas hill country in Austin, TX. I lived in Austin for about 5 years and worked at the Lady Bird JohnsonWildflower Center. The Wildflower Center is where I cut my teeth on native plants and fell in love with the great state of TX (which, by the way, being a native Coloradoan I never thought I would say or write!!). 

As a horticulturist and general plant nerd, whenever I return to a place that I love, the emotions I feel are in large part a reaction to the plant palette. They provide a sense of place for me like nothing else. Different areas of the county have different styles of architecture, the people have different accents and they serve up unique and different foods, but what really speaks to me, are the plants. Just like Mrs. Johnson said in her soft, east Texas drawl, “Wherever I go in America, I like it when the land speaks its own language in its own regional accent.” 

Mrs. Johnson in a field of Coreopsis and Gaillardia
(image from:
One of the more notable times this happened for me, I was traveling to Austin again, but this time by train. When you travel by train you get to see the landscape in a whole new way; far from the typical highway route of a road trip and often relatively undisturbed. As the train rumbled down the track, I remember getting closer and closer to town. I started seeing the familiar faces of mustang grape climbing up the trees, huge clumps of pink evening primrose and Englemann's daisy - all natives of the area. 

On this most recent trip, I decided to document a few of my old favorites from the Lone Star State to share with y'all (had to sneak that in!). All of the photos were taken at the Wildflower Center and I'll provide a link with each plant to the Center's awesome Native Plant Information Network database (NPIN). It's a great resource!!

Front entrance to the WFC gardens: sandstone walkway and limestone cistern -- typical building materials found in the hill country. Plants include Agave, Gregg's dahlia, cedar elm, Mexican feather grass, mountain laurel.

Ball moss!! Tillandsia recurvata I love this little plant.
It is a member of the bromeliad family and is found hanging
in the canopy of trees (epiphytic, not parasitic).

Gregg's mist flower, Conoclinium greggii.
Queen butterflies love this plant. In the height of
the season the plants will be dripping with them.
Lace cactus, Echinocereus reichenbachii. Has a beautiful rose-pink
flower. I brought one of these with me when we moved to AZ and
then to CO. It's hanging on, but not super happy. I'll have to work on that!
This is a two-fer: Rock rose, Pavonia lasiopetala and Autumn sage, Salvia greggii The sage is found in landscapes
throughout the Southwest, but you can go on hikes in the hill
country of Texas and see it growing in its native habitat!
Big Muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri. The majestic grass is endemic
to the Edwards Plateau. It has a beautiful fine foliage and gorgeous
seed heads in later summer/early fall. 
Texas live oak, Quercus fusiformis. What can I say about the live oak?
Magnificent, huge branches, interesting form. This species doesn't
get as big as the ones found in the deep south, Quercus virginiana, but
they are still fabulous! 

Scarlet leather flower, Clematis texensis. A hardy and 

drought tolerant clematis that is native only to the
southeastern Edwards Plateau in Texas. 

Texas spiny lizard, Sceloporus olivaceus.
The native wildlife enjoys the plants too!!

I'll leave it at those for now, although my list and photos go on and on. Do any of you experience the same thing? When you travel back to the place you grew up or raised your family or maybe a spot you vacation regularly, do the plants speak to you in their regional accent reminding you of where in the country or on the planet you are?? I hope so, because for me the connection to the place makes the visit a much richer experience.

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