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Memorial Park Long-Range Master Planning Meeting - 12/10/13 EcoTech; Resources for Native / Invasive Plants

posted Dec 10, 2013, 5:08 AM by Lan Shen   [ updated Dec 10, 2013, 6:51 AM ]

(This document is also available in google docs at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p5JmL0LvV0oI6oWMvzKxhMDaUM6IEc44lHTsfcw8oD0/edit?usp=sharing )


Lan Shen on Resources for Native & Invasive Plants, prepared for the meeting.     


Preserving and perhaps expanding the natural areas of the park to benefit wildlife, nature, and visitors’ enjoyment of nature should be a high priority of any long-range master plan for Memorial Park.  The ecology of Memorial Park consists of forests, wetlands, riparian areas along Buffalo Bayou, and coastal tallgrass prairie.  Each ecological area has its own plant community.  With respect to the plant community in the natural areas, the long term goals should include:

  • preserving and perhaps expanding the diversity of local native plants,

  • continual removal of invasive plants,

  • creating a detailed maintenance plan for each plant community

  • educating the public about the ecological areas through signage, demonstration gardens, etc.


Why use native plants

  • Bringing Nature Home - Doug Tallamy, “Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities.”  http://www.amazon.com/Douglas-W.-Tallamy/e/B001JS3ELE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

    • A balanced and biodiverse ecosystem needs its insects as food source, pollinator, decomposer, etc.

    • Insects are sustained mainly by native plants, with which it co-evolved. Native plants support a much larger number of native insects, which in turn are food for birds and other wildlife.

    • Development has lead to drastic reductions of many native species due in part to the use of non-native plants in landscaping.  

    • Converting landscaping even in small areas to native plants can help sustain the native insect and hence native wildlife.

  • When planted under conditions similar to their native habitats, native plants are more able to tolerate local pests without use of pesticides.

  • Local native plants can survive with minimum need of supplemental water and chemicals (fertilizer, pesticide, herbicides).

  • Any decrease in mowing decreases fuel usage and carbon dioxide emissions

  • They provide a sense of place and of seasonal changes.


Use local native plants from local sources for natural areas

  • Use local and not “Texas native”.  Insects that depend on certain west Texas cacti will not fly all the way to Houston to use that plant.

  • Use local seed/plant sources.  Prairie plants such as little bluestem grows from Texas to Canada.  Plants grown from seeds of Canadian little bluestem, might not survive the Texas summer heat.  Chihuahuas will not survive in the Alps in winter, whereas St. Bernards (also Canis lupus familiaris) will.  Caution: many nurseries are supplied by Florida wholesale places and that is why many of the Gulf Muhlies used around town is not our local species, Muhlenbergia capillaris, but rather a similar species native to Florida. (Dr. Larry Brown, at a Native Plant Society of Texas - Houston fieldtrip talking about the Gulf Muhly in the jogging trail parking lot.)


How to determine if a plant is native

  • Google plant name (scientific name, preferably) and “native to” e.g. google        Dandelion “native to”

  • USDA Plant Database (http://plants.usda.gov/java/): N (native) or I (introduced). Shows county locations, for some plants

  • Use Dr. Brown’s Checklist of the Vascular Plants of the Houston Area (which lists both native and non-native plants) to determine, if the plant is found locally. http://tinyurl.com/n3llx4c

  • Look it up and do NOT depend on nurseries and other landscape designers/architects.  Or submit list to Jed Aplaca.  When buying seeds from Wildseed Farms (cheaper) - be sure to check, if the plants are native or not.  Native American Seeds, sells only Texas native seeds.


Cultivar vs. non-Cultivar:  Plants from sources found in nature have been cross pollinated (bred) by bees and insects and contain the high nectar content and nutrients they need.  Cultivars bred by man for plant size, flower color, etc. may or may not contain as high a concentration of the neccessary nutrients.  (Mark Klym, Texas Park & Wildlife Dept. in a lecture)


Resources: Lists of (Common) Local Native Plants


Resources: Lists of Invasive Plants


Caution - use the so-called “Earth-Kind® Plant Selector” ONLY with cross reference to the Invasive species list:

  • Marketing tool of Texas AgriLife - the so-called “Earth-Kind®” Program (actually should be “Earth UN-Kind” Program)  http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/

  • If you use the so-called “Earth-Kind® Plant Selector” (should really be the Earth-UNKind Plant Selector, http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/earthkind/plantselector/ ) be aware that invasive plants of an area are given high (good) so-called “Earth-Kind®” numbers because they will grow without use of much water and fertilizer and other resources.  My recommendation - stay away from this plant selector.  Such indices are detrimental to the environment because they lead the unsuspecting to use invasive plants.


Suggests in relationship to native & invasive plants

  • Please do not use invasive plants anywhere in the park.  Some common non-native nursery plants are on the TexasInvasives.org list, so please cross reference plant choices against list of invasives.

  • Formalize a plan to protect & preserve the Memorial Park Prairie - a remnant with at least 290 plant species (list at http://prairiepartner.org/page/plant-lists)  - along the railroad track / center point easement.  Some plants found in this very high quality prairie remnant are not very common these days in the greater Houston area.  The plant material in Memorial Park Prairie can be used as a resource - a seed source - to enhance this prairie and to be used in other prairies that you may wish to install in Memorial Park.

  • In the forested natural areas, maintain all levels of plants from ground cover to understory small trees and shrubs to tall trees, so that the area does not become the classic 3 inches (lawn) and 30 feet (trees) landscape with nothing in between.  All levels of plant material, including understory small trees and shrubs provide cover and food and habitat for wildlife.

  • An important tool to preserve the natural areas and their plants, is to set up a rigorous, detailed, and separate maintenance plan for each ecological area.  

  • In “landscaped garden areas” please install one or more demonstration bed using only local native plants from habitats found in Memorial Park plus proper signage. Please use your landscaping design talents to highlight the beauty and usage of native plants in traditional gardens in order to encourage Houstonians to accept and use more native plants in their gardens.


Maintenance:

  • General principles:

    • Prairie areas: Haying twice per year or a mowing program, if haying is not possible a mowing plan

    • Woodland areas: understory plants are important

    • Invasive removal program

  • An important tool for the preservation of plants in the natural areas is detailed maintenance plans for each ecological area. The plan should also include

    • Designating one person responsible for carrying out the maintenance plan

    • Training for individual workers, accounting for high turnover

    • Communicating with the person responsible for the maintenance plan every time earth is moved or plants are cut/removed from the park.  i.e. If Center Point or Flood Control or Park Maintenance wants to dump a truckload of soil or of vegetative debris into the natural area, that person should know about it and assess, whether the area will tolerate such treatment.


Demonstration bed with natives

  • Soil Preparation: Best local compost is from Nature’s Way Resources in Conroe

  • Soil preparation before planting is very important.

  • Many native plants do not have as long a bloom period as non-native nursery plants.  Planting a variety of plants that bloom at different times throughout the year is very important in a native plant flower bed.

  • Best planting time in Houston is middle of October to middle of March.

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