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Collin County Chapter

New Year – New Look for Your Landscape with North Texas Natives

With the ringing in of the new year, often comes resolutions and promises of fresh starts. This should include planning for a fresh, local makeover of your landscape with native North Texas plants.

Why North Texas Native Plants?

Plants native to North Texas are well adapted to our challenging local conditions, where they have thrived for thousands of years. Plus, native plants provide better habitats for local pollinators and other wildlife, and require less water and maintenance.

Non-natives do not have the same inhibitors, such as native herbivores, allowing them to overtake an ecosystem.

White Mistflower (Ageratina havanensis)

Below, we have developed a listing of recommendations by type of plant for local native plants to replace non-native plants. The native plants chosen are typically available at local nurseries or native plant sales.

Large Shrubs and Small Trees

Our first group includes the non-native plant that is one of the most invasive and damaging to our local ecosystem – Privets. The Nandina is not far behind in its ability to wreak havoc on our environment through spreading via root sprouts and dispersal of its seeds.

Instead of these damaging non-natives, consider a native plant. These North Texas native large shrubs / small trees deliver shade, beauty, and nourishment for wildlife:

  • Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria): A popular local choice for its nearly evergreen leaves and red berries.
  • Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana): This native small tree offers fragrant spring blooms and edible fruit, supporting local wildlife.
  • Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) and Texas Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis): Both of these native Redbuds are popular showy small trees known for pink or purple flowers that appear before leaves emerge in early spring.

Flowering and Small Shrubs

The three non-native flowering shrubs listed below are each problematic for our local ecosystem. While they have colorful flowers, they also create havoc locally and crowd out natives. They readily escape yards and can spread quickly in wild areas.

  • Chinese Hibiscus
  • Japanese Barberry
  • Glossy Abelia

Replace these damaging exotic plants with a colorful North Texas native shrub. They are hardy, built for our climate, and provide a long-lasting shot of color for your landscape.

  • Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana): A very attractive shrub with clusters of bright purple berries that persist into the winter months. It provides food for birds and other wildlife. Beautyberry tolerates full sun to partial shade, and requires minimal maintenance.
  • Texas Lantana (Lantana urticoides): While this is a North Texas native, be careful because of its similarities to an exotic species. Lantana urticoides produces clusters of yellow, orange, and red flowers and is drought tolerant.
  • Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii): While not technically native to North Texas, its native range extended up to central Texas. It has proved to be a hardy, shade-loving plant here in North Texas. Producing tubular bright red flowers, hummingbirds are a guaranteed visitor.
  • White Mistflower (Ageratina havanensis): Another flowering shrub with a native range that only extended to the Edwards Plateau. However, it has shown to be a hardy, adaptable shrub for North Texas. In the fall, it provides a proliferation of white flowers for pollinators to feast on.

Perennial Flowers

The non-native Tropical Milkweed is a popular choice among gardeners. With its name and bright colors, it fools people into believing it is beneficial to Monarchs and other pollinators – it is not. The plant can be toxic to Monarch butterfly caterpillars if they eat it instead of a preferred native host plant.

  • Tropical Milkweed
  • Mexican Petunia
  • Gerbera Daisy
Texas Discovery Gardens
Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum); courtesy of the Texas Discovery Gardens

For a local replacement, there are numerous native perennials to choose from for your garden. We have listed only a few among many that thrive in our environment, provide long-lasting blooms, and are better adapted for our local ecosystem.

  • Green Milkweed (Asclepius viridis) and Antelope Horns Milkweed (Asclepias asperula): The two most common North Texas native milkweeds. For further information about helping Monarch butterflies, the Native Plant Society of Texas’ “Bring Back the Monarchs to Texas” program is designed to help reverse the decline in Monarchs.
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta): With its golden-yellow petals and dark brown centers, this hardy perennial tolerates full sun and delivers gorgeous blooms for local pollinators.
  • Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa): A hardy native that can grow up to three feet tall and is known for its fragrant flowers that attract pollinators. The flowers can range from white to pink to lavender.
  • Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthum): This low-growing plant produces small, white daisy-like flowers and is drought-tolerant.
  • Blue Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum): The Blue Mistflower can grow to 3 feet high, but often lower. Small disc-shaped flowers are bright blue or violet, and readily attract bees and butterflies.

Grasses

These two non-native ornamental grasses are popular in North Texas. Still, the Pampas grass is an especially invasive threat to our ecosystem. In addition to these two non-native ornamental grasses, many other destructive grasses, such as King Ranch Bluestem and Johnson Grass, have been imported for use as erosion control, livestock fodder, and roadside grass.

Like perennial flowers, we have various native grasses available to provide visual interest, wildlife sustenance, and habitat. Below are just a few examples:

  • Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium): Hardy, shade-tolerant native North Texas grass with drooping seed heads that provide a unique element to gardens.
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium): With its fine-textured foliage and slender blue-green stems that by fall become mahogany-red with white, shining seed tufts.
  • Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans): A tall, bunching sod-forming grass with blue-green blades and large plume-like, golden-brown seed heads. Sorghastrum nutans’ fall color is deep orange to purple.
Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Vines and Groundcovers

The non-native vines and groundcovers listed below aggressively displace native plants typically by forming dense mats and out-competing them for sunlight and nutrients. Japanese Honeysuckle is especially notorious for choking out native plants once they escape from landscapes.

Lastly, is a sampling of native vines and groundcovers to replace exotic grasses. They are low maintenance and provide color and unique forms to your landscape.

  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata): A vigorous climber, this North Texas native evergreen showcases trumpet-shaped flowers in the spring with shades of red, orange, and yellow.
  • Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens): With red tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and bloom throughout the summer, they are fast-growing and attractive.
  • Cedar Sage (Salvia roemeriana): A red-flowered, perennial salvia that grows from 1 to 2 feet tall, is an excellent ground cover for a variety of landscape environments. They flower from spring through the summer.
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia): A fast-growing vine with attractive green leaves that can turn vibrant red and orange in fall. Provides excellent food and cover for birds and other wildlife.

Give Your Garden a Fresh, Local Makeover

In 2024, do your yard and local ecosystem a big favor, and start planning to replace some of your tired non-native plants with North Texas natives. Native plants help save water, attract local pollinators, and support greater biodiversity. In addition, they are easier to maintain and provide color and interest to your landscape all year long.

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason