Whoop! Another opportunity to celebrate nature!
Did you know that in 2009 the Texas Legislature designated the third week in October as Texas Native Plant Week? It was appointed as such to emphasize the role of native plants in conservation efforts, support efforts to teach school children about native plants, and make the public aware that native-plant species are threatened by loss of habitat and invasive, exotic species. And this celebration seems appropriate in October because fall is the best time of year to start a native plant garden. This year’s Native Plant Week takes place from October 18-24, and I have put together a short list of ways to honor our Texas native plants:
Identify native (and non-native) plants
One thing that I am grateful for this year is the ability to pause and take a beat. Yes, something to be thankful for in 2020…the opportunity to slow down and smell the (native) roses! As we go about our daily lives at a slightly reduced speed, I invite you to take a look around you at the plants in your neighborhood, in the ditches along the road, and along your favorite trail. Do you know the names of these plants and which families they belong to? By learning more about the plants around us, we can better understand their contribution to the plant community and ecosystem. This time of year, my yard is about to be inundated with enough bur oak acorns to feed the entire population of squirrels in Johnson County. American beautyberry is a notable plant that I enjoy being able to identify when hiking and which is an important food source for birds and other wildlife in the fall. Note: our native plants are critically linked to native wildlife. Our local insects, birds, and small wildlife have evolved alongside native plants. And on the flip side, it is important to recognize intruders, like my arch nemesis – privet. This non-native shrub is invasive and will quickly choke out many of our native Texas trees. So, start learning those plants – purchase a quick guide at the local HEB register or an extensive reference from someone like the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. If you can take a picture of the plant, iNaturalist (online or mobile app) is a great free tool to utilize and share your findings as a citizen scientist.