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Jake Landers' Range Plants

Yaupon Transplanted from East Texas

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This Yaupon bush, planted along with other native plants at the Menard County Courthouse, is showing a moderate load of berries in winter.

By Jake Landers

Published February 2013

Jake LandersI missed the boat in December talking about native plants in Christmas decorations by overlooking Yaupon.  Chances are slim that you would find a Yaupon bush in the western half of Texas unless you trailed through a suburban neighborhood in one of our cities.  It’s abundant as a small understory tree in east Texas where it is well adapted to the more acid soils, but it also grows well as a planted shrub in the west.  It grows better that a lot of our local native plants, and in December half the plants—the females—come forth with brilliant red berries the size of BBs.  I never saw it in the pastures of my growing-up days because it wasn’t there, and it had not been brought into landscaping yet.

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St. Maria Feverfew

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By Jake Landers

Published January 2013

Jake Landers St. Maria Feverfew growing in colonies on Hill Country rangeland with old Mesquite on deeper soil and Liveoak on shallower sites. A plant that is abundant in our pastures is Feverfew, or should I say in some pastures, because it can be dense in one and absent across the fence.  Most of the time the plant grows in patches on shallow soil as well as on the deeper soil of Mesquite flats, probably in response to some heavy grazing in the past.  But it is present also in some roadsides that are not regularly mowed such as Lone Star Alley near Menard, Texas, where I often drive to observe the abundance of native wildflowers and grasses.  Some pastures on the road to the ranch, however, were dominated by Broomweed or Croton instead of Feverfew.  Grazing history and the kind of livestock have contributed to which plant is dominant, and I haven’t figured it all out.

Feverfew is also called St.Maria feverfew, False ragweed, and scientifically, Parthenium confertum.  It is a weak perennial, some years coming back strong from the old root system and in other years disappearing temporarily and coming back from seed following a drought year when grass competition is weak. 

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Christmas Decorations From the Pasture

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By Jake Landers

Published December 2012

Jake Landers Michaelmas Daisy, the darkest and bluest aster, blooms in the Menard Elementary School native plant area. It might be meant for an early Christmas flower, but Michaelmas daisy starts blooming in October and it’s spent by Thanksgiving.  Other plants in our native plant collection fit Christmas a little better.  The brilliant red berries of Snailseed, or Coralberry vine, are ideal to drape around a branch of cedar for a table decoration or the Christmas tree itself, and although the leaves remain green, the berries tend to dry out by the time Christmas rolls around.  Blueberry Cedar (Ashe juniper) fits well into our Christmas traditions.  It doesn’t have deep blue berries every year, but the green foliage and its odor are always there.  There’s nothing like the smell of a Cedar Christmas tree in my memories. The red Poinsettia, now commercialized in many colors, is a far cry from its native populations of Euphorbia cyathophora, by scientific name, because of our human tendencies to add splashy colors to most decorations and to make them look artificial. It has become the most popular of our Christmas flowers.

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Kidneywood and Mexican Elderberry

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By Jake Landers

Published November 2012

Jake Landers This Kidneywood bush in full bloom at the Menard Public Library was planted about 5 years ago. Two woody plants of our area are seldom noticed by ranchers because they are rare on our rangeland, and because they have little impact on livestock or wildlife anyway.  But, maybe they are beginning to get a little attention from our city cousins concerned about water conservation and landscaping with adapted species.   

I’m referring to Kidneywood and Mexican Elderberry—large bushes or small trees that grow in a few scattered locations in the southern half of Texas and Mexico.  Kidneywood prefers rocky calcareous outcrops and Mexican elderberry stays on the edge of streams or river banks where it can benefit from the extra water.  Both species have received attention from the landscaping trade because of their drought resistance and ability to grow when water is available into small attractive trees.  Both become small trees with pruning and good growing conditions. If planted north of halfway in Texas, they may suffer some frost injury.  

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Two Unusual Natives

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By Jake Landers

Published October 2012

Jake Landers Hairy tube-tongue grows in the moderately managed lawn beneath shade of majestic Liveoak trees at the Menard First Methodist Church, where my batteries to my scooter ran down. Some of our native plants can be overlooked despite their importance or because they don’t impress us by their looks.  Now that I have shifted my living location from a city standard home and lawn to a community retirement center with adjacent park, parking lot, ditch, and cracks in the sidewalks, I see a different mix of plants. None seem to be very important, but I still find them interesting, and I can get to local ranches to see some important ones when I have a gate opener.  But my time on pasture ground is becoming more limited, and my time on the scooter going to and from bank, library, court house, drug store, only two blocks away, is exposing me to new plants.

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Finewool and Clippings

After a particularly restless Saturday night, three cowboys stood before the small town judge on a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct in a public park. Judge to First Cowboy: Name please. First Cowboy: Harvey. Judge: What were you doing in the park? First Cowboy: Oh, we was just throwing peanuts in the river. Judge to Second Cowboy: And your name? Second Cowboy: Bubba, sir. Judge: And what were you doing, Bubba? Second Cowboy: Like Harvey says, we was throwing peanuts in the river. Judge to Third Cowboy: Your name? Third Cowboy: Peanuts.