Native Plants Go the Extra Yard

While there is a positive movement towards the use of adapted and low-water use plants in our San Antonio landscapes, there are even more benefits to planting natives.

Native plants have a purpose in the yard. They provide food (seeds, nuts, leaves), shelter (nesting, protection, resting, perching), erosion control (protecting soil surface and root structure in soil), and enhanced diversity.

Native birds, bees, mammals, reptiles, native insects (yes, we want them too), etc. primarily require a native plant for their survival. The greater the selection and diversity of plants, the greater the diversity of fauna and fewer problems you will have with any single issue in your yard.

Plants that are native to Texas, and more desirably, native to our region of the state, are the recommended choices.

What do native landscapes require LESS of?

  1. Water – Native plants have evolved to be adaptive to our feast or famine weather patterns during the year and once they are well established, they will survive even if they’re not thriving.

  2. Pesticides – In a balanced landscape, there may always be some plant being munched on, but the insects in our yards are what feeds birds (90% of our bird species feed their young on insects – not bird seed or bread) and reptiles (think anoles or false chameleons). The decreased use of pesticide application in the landscape makes for a better world.

  3. Fertilizer – Native plants occur and thrive in nature without fertilizer, although they do get nutrients through leaf litter, compost, mulch, and rainwater. Addition of organic matter is another reason to mulch with organic materials instead of converting to gravel or rock mulch in the garden.

Ask a Naturalist: Bluebird boxes

Say, how about placing some blue bird boxes at various locations in the park?

The unfortunate truth is sometimes even when you build it, they don’t come. We witnessed this at Eisenhower Park, where there have been blue bird boxes for years but still no blue birds. With or without birds, the boxes require monitoring and cleaning on a regular basis. With 311 acres of park land to maintain, that is something that our staff does not have time to do. Finally, we also found in Eisenhower Park that the boxes attract predators (snakes, raccoons, etc), requiring the installation and maintenance of predator guards.

As much as we love birds, blue bird boxes just aren't suitable for Hardberger Park.

Ask a Naturalist: Ice Plant

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What is this icy looking plant?

I spotted it in the Blanco side of the park when the temperatures were below freezing…

You were lucky to see Frostweed (Verbesina Virginica) in its “frosty” state. When temperatures drop below freezing, the dead stems of Frostweed exude liquid that freezes into icy formations. This native plant is a member of the Aster family and grows in rich loamy soils near creeks or under shade trees. Frostweed has straight, unbranched stems that grow about three to six feet tall. It is a perennial that blooms August through November.

Ask a Naturalist: Butterflies in San Antonio

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What are the butterflies seen around San Antonio recently?

Snout Butterflies migrated through San Antonio recently. This common name comes from the butterfly’s elongated mouth-parts that form a prominent snout. While still caterpillars, they feed on Hackberry trees. As adults, Snout Butterflies are attracted to fermenting fruit and wildflowers.

The Snout Butterfly is also known by the scientific names of Libytheana bachmanii or Libytheana carinenta.

Photos taken by Donald Ewers. See more of his work at www.whileonawalk.blogspot.com.