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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

You can’t buy ”Cross Timbers” heritage anywhere, but you can preserve it


 
This natural north Texas area is called “Cross Timbers” by ecologists. Also, Cross
Timbers Park is a 70-acre park in the south of Denton. As yet it hasn’t been deluged by soccer fields and joggers, but it’s going that way.

It seems that many people think the term “Cross Timbers” is merely a made-up name.
Actually, Denton is mostly in the Eastern Cross Timbers –the popular name for this area in “pioneer-speak”. Unfortunately, there is hardly any real “Cross Timbers” left today, having been plowed under and paved over to accommodate subdivisions, shopping malls, highways and the like. Which makes Cross Timbers Park very special.

The origin of the name can be traced down several paths, depending on who’s talking. The most popular, however, has its roots in the natural geography and vegetation of this area. Most forests here run in north-south bands.  Rivers, on the other hand, run roughly east-west. The result was that pioneers (who  avoided dangerous river crossings) had to cross bands of forest as they traveled between the rivers, heading west. Thus the name: 
”Cross Timbers”.

In academic, ecological terms, this area was a “savannah” which is defined as a grassland prairie spotted with trees. (Mostly post oaks and blackjack oaks in this instance). In many areas the characteristic trees were so thick that they were forests. In the 18th and 19th centuries in fact, the Cross Timbers was a well-known geographic feature marking the eastern edge of the American grasslands.

Nowadays, however, there are embarrassingly few remnants of the Cross Timbers left. Much of the original soil has been “urbanized” by extensive construction, farming and introduction of non-natural soil. Descriptions of this region’s forest abound in the historic literature and the Cross Timbers was often THE most prominent feature on historic maps of the period 1830 – 1880. 

Even though 19th-century naturalists generally put the range of the Cross Timbers region over a large stretch of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas – the native ecosystem is now found in only a few large parks, preserves and isolated patches of countryside and floodplains.

Many kinds of plants thrived in the Cross Timbers, but almost all the natural canopy trees were species of oaks. Among them were millions of tough smilax vines (those pesky, thorny vines also called catclaw vine or greenbrier).  But vegetation would not exist at all in this type of soil if “traffic” were not limited in some way. The Cross Timbers soil is sandy, porous, unstable and nutrient-poor. Consequently, the natural vegetation is fragile and easily killed.

The Cross Timbers is tied to the sandstone geology, and is limited by the local climate; rainfall being the biggest factor. This area (which includes Denton) gets between 23 inches and 43 inches per year. Coupled with high summer temperatures and frequent droughts, this area is ideal for the native oaks. When artificial irrigation is introduced, many other plants will survive here, although vegetative life and wildlife is still very fragile.

Despite a growing awareness of the Cross Timbers’ heritage , what little remains is being demolished at an alarming rate.  The opportunities for tourism revenue are still huge however. Few regions present better opportunities to integrate heritage tourism with
conservation than the Cross Timbers. 

So, as you look around Cross Timbers Park, glimpse an Eastern Bluebird perched on a limb, hear a hidden Woodpecker or Chickadee, and teach your child about real-life nature, think of all that came before us, and all that Cross Timbers used to be and it’s immense educational opportunity, without a flood of things like picnic tables and swing sets.

 

 

Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at northwestern68@yahoo.com

 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Why birds' feet won't freeze to perches


 Some folks still believe that birds’ feet will freeze onto metal perches in cold weather. Hogwash! According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, birds’ feet (as with the rest of their bodies) contain no sweat glands; therefore there’s no bodily moisture to freeze.
 
Similarly, birds' feet are not made of living tissue (much like our fingernails or hair), allowing them to perch safely on electric wires.
I wish you a very happy holiday season. (there are 33 religions that celebrate a holiday between Dec. 1 and Jan 1; some more than one holiday).  No religion is more credible or important than the others. So when I wish you all a happy holiday season, please don't take it as an insult.
Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. 


Sunday, December 20, 2015

North Texas hosts more birds in cool weather than in warm months


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
American Robin

Kinglet
 
 What with all the talk of Hummingbirds leaving and other birds migrating to warmer climates, you may have gotten the impression that this area is empty of birds until spring. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and a look out your window may be enlightening. There are clearly more birds in north Texas in the fall and winter, than in the spring and summer.

True, some birds (like Hummingbirds, Buntings and Swallows) have left for their annual winter haunts in South and Central America. Other birds (like Goldfinches, true Sparrows, Juncos and Kinglets) are arriving in north Texas as we speak, after being up north  all summer.  To them, this IS south. Our comparatively mild winters agree with them.

Many, many other birds stay right here. These include Cardinals, Chickadees, Mockingbirds, Titmice and Woodpeckers. Of these, some are what’s called “partial migrators” – Robins for example. The ones that live here stay here. But the Robins that were in, for instance, Ohio last summer, come down here for the winter. So populations of some species actually swell, although they’re less active in cool weather.

In actuality, many of the cool weather birds are already arriving here. Even at this date, a few Juncos, Kinglets and Goldfinches have been seen. Cedar Waxwings and Flycatchers normally arrive here a week or so after that. The true Sparrows, like the White-throated Sparrows and Harris' Sparrows, are already here in throngs.

Sadly, wild birds have a high mortality in cool weather – it varies among species, but can be as high as 70% of the first-year birds. This is mainly from exposure to the winds and weather, coupled with a lack of fresh, energy-producing food.

Birds, like us, want to get out of the weather (especially at night) and conserve energy by staying relatively warm. They seek out “roosts” for the night. Roosts can be almost any warm, protective space. Some species, Chickadees are one, huddle together in a mass, sharing body heat.

In winter, birds need bathing water to stay warm too. At first, this seemed odd to me too, but not after discovering why they fluff up their feathers. The fluffing creates tiny air pockets, which insulate birds’ bodies quite well. Dirty feathers, however, won’t fluff up. So birds need to bathe in the winter (the actual bath takes only about a few seconds).

Bathing, warm roosts and fresh food are what birds need in cool weather. North Texans have been doing a good job of providing these basics, so we continue to have more birds here in cool weather, than the spring and summer.
Dark-eyed Junco
 
Cedar Waxwing
 
Northern Cardinal  (right)



Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at northwestern68@yahoo.com  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Use dead leaves the way nature intended


Sooner or later, you’ll get tired of moving fallen leaves from one place in your yard to another. Maybe you end up stuffing them into plastic bags or you decide to call a mound of leaves a "compost pile." Here’s an idea: instead of using a rake, use your lawn mower to improve your soil and get fallen leaves out of sight.

The easiest and most environmentally sensible thing to do is leave the leaves where they fall, and shred them up with your mower. No special mower or blade is necessary; just do it like you’re cutting the lawn. By far the worst thing you can do is rake up all the fallen leaves, leaving bare ground exposed to the elements. This just encourages unwanted vegetation and erosion. A thin carpet of shredded, dead leaves protects the soil from compaction and erosion; and it’s free! It also loosens the soil so it holds water better.

Most of the trees in north Texas are oak trees. All spring and summer, oak leaves store up nutrients gathered from the soil. These nutrients are roughly equivalent to the nutrients in store-bought compost, which we'll gladly pay good money for! About now, however, leaves are dying and falling to the ground. Then they start decomposing naturally, becoming compost. They’re also releasing all of that stored nutrition. (It's a natural, yearly cycle that nature intended.) This coming winter, the dead leaves will protect fragile roots (which are usually near the surface) from the cold. 

Taking the dead leaves away interferes with this natural process and stresses plants, which now have no natural source of nutrition or natural protection. Left in place, however, fallen leaves slowly decompose into an excellent soil ingredient; leaves mixed with your soil will immediately start decomposing to nourish and loosen the soil and noticeably improve plant growth. 

Biology is certainly not my strong suit. However, I'm told that fallen leaves contain carbon and nitrogen compounds, which all plants crave. What's more, some organic compounds (such as amino acids) resulting from leaf decomposition can be absorbed directly by plants, for more vigorous growth.

The only drawback that I know of is that sometimes too many leaves can form a mat and smother plants, cutting them off from sunlight, air or water. Of course, if you shred your leaves into little pieces with your mower, this isn’t a problem. No mat will form, your lawn will green up earlier in the spring and it will resist browning in the heat.

You’ll be amazed by the way your leaves nearly disappear when you shred them. They’ll take up around ten percent of the space that unshredded leaves do. Many pieces will simply filter down between the grass blades and start decomposing and releasing nutrients right way, instead over the next decade. This lets you skip one of your yearly fertilizer applications.

Leaves can, and do, come to rest in the wrong places sometimes. So if they're on your driveway, sidewalk, porch or deck, by all means rake or blow them away. But when they fall on soil (including your lawn), look at them as a free gift from nature, chock-full of nutrition for your plants, not as a future chore. Those dead leaves should be used as nature intended, not thrown away, burned or sent to the landfill.

 

Owen Yost, in addition to blogging, is a Landscape Architect emeritus from here, whos
worked in north Texas for over 30 years.  He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Society of Landscape Architects, the National BirdFeeding Society, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. He was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Native Plant Society of Texas. His design office is at Yost87@charter.net

 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How to spot birds that are trying hard not to be seen


Cedar Waxwing
Spotting birds in nature has challenges that often discouraged us.  Too often the birds win and we slink away in disappointment.

First, don’t use your binoculars to begin with. Binoculars severely limit your area of view to a very small portion of what it should be;  a “target bird” may be just a few feet outside of your area of view, and you’ll never know it. Instead, keep binoculars handy, but in your lap, to use only when you actually see a bird.

At first, look at the whole expanse in front of you with your unaided eyes. Try not to focus on a single area or item, but let your eyes cover the whole viewing area. Movement is much easier to spot that way, which will easily locate a bird among motionless branches and such (since birds have a need for almost-constant motion). I try to ‘back off’ putting anything in sharp focus until I see motion.

When you see motion, it’s probably an actual wild bird. Swing into action! With a reference point in mind, bring the binoculars to your eyes and train them on the bird. (Practice doing this without losing your target bird). Then adjust the binoculars, focusing to get the sharpest view.

Resist the urge to look for the bird right then in a field guide. Instead, deliberately recite its characteristics to yourself such as “small bird, brown body, one white wingbar, short conical beak, two white bars on head“ and such. After the bird flies away (which he’ll probably do in 5 or 6 seconds) you’ll have plenty of time to check your field guide.

That’s about all there is to it; except for obvious matters like avoiding loud noises, sudden movements and bright clothing. Also hope for a relatively calm day, when strong winds don’t put branches in motion, and more birds are out and about.

 

Trivia that has nothing to do with birds       I just thought it was interesting, and I hope you do too. Velcro was created about 60 years ago by a Swiss inventor. He was curious why cockleburs stuck to his clothes so ferociously. Under a microscope, he saw that its surface is a mass of tiny, interlocking hooks, which he fabricated.  Hence, Velcro.

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spectacular fall color is very possible in north Texas


 
North Texas is not known for spectacular fall color, unlike New England and some areas near the Rockies. That’s not because there are no colorful trees here (there are several). It’s because the dominant trees exhibit little or no spectacular fall color, as you might expect from when almost all of north Texas is in what’s biologically-called a “Post Oak Savannah”

Simply put; the sheer number of Post Oak trees (and its relative Blackjack Oaks), overwhelm the trees that are showing nice fall color. Over the centuries this natural disparity has increased. Also, unspectacular trees as Live Oaks, Ashes and some imported, non-native trees have been widely planted.

I suggest, if you want really dramatic color, you plant a “mass” of the same tree species (a “mass” is at least half a dozen, planted in a grove). Not only is it more visually striking; it seems to attract more birds seeking protection within its branches.
·       The Soapberry is my personal favorite. The medium-sized tree with an unfortunate name turns a bright yellow/orange in the fall.
 
·       The Red Oak (also called shumard oak) turns into a reddish “torch” every fall (most of them, anyway)

·       Bald Cypress, by itself, can’t be called a spectacular tree. It’s an excellent background tree, however, since it displays a rust-red color all winner long .

·       Sweetgum is a dramatic tree.  The tall tree transforms into a bright red {sometimes purple) in the fall.

·       Bigtooth Maple is a small, nativge tree that’s hard to find in nurseries, but worth the hunt. It turns into a striking red each fall.

·       Cedar Elm is a fairly common native tree. Many of them (but not all) turn a yellowish about late October.

·       Sumac is a shrubby plant that’s best used when randomly interspersed among large, trees.

 
These are all native to Texas, but are usually overwhelmed visually by our unspectacular oaks. In the ‘silver linings department‘ however, and thanks to rampant land-clearing, we have an opportunity to create a patch of vivid color anywhere we could plant a tree. By far the best time of year to plant them is right now, so the roots can grow all during a Texas winter, becoming visually spectacular about this time next year, and for years after.

 

 

 

Starlings; fit to be pried

 

The European Starling, a non-native bird now living almost everywhere in North America. It has a jaw/beak unlike almost any other living thing. It is stronger when opening than when closing, Thus, it can pry open tiny cracks (like in tree bark) to get at hidden insects and such.

 

In the fall and winter it is speckled with tiny white spots.

 
 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The bird that's also a Migratory Tourist


 


Barn  Swallows
The Barn Swallow is on its way back to South America – after having been in North America all spring and summer!  It’s the only bird found here, that’s also been seen in every single South American country. This cousin of the Purple Martin winters only as far north as Costa Rica, and as far south as Tierra del Fuego (almost to Antarctica).

 

 


Killdeer
Useless trivia ?       Unless you’re a Killdeer. Newborn Killdeer have all their feathers, unlike most birds. This is called “precosial” which could help you if you’re ever a contestant on JEOPARDY.  (Killdeer are fairly common around here)

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

ExxonMobil found guilty of killing birds


 

   
ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 protected birds, including hawks, owls, and waterfowl. The birds died from exposure to natural gas well reserve pits, oil tanks, and waste water storage facilities at Exxon Mobil drilling and production facilities. The company thus violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). 
     The company will pay $400,000 in fines and $200,000 in community service fees to waterfowl rehabilitation and preservation programs. The $600,000 paid by ExxonMobil seems substantial. The amount, however, is roughly equal to what the company makes in income in 20 minutes


 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Nightjars you’ve heard in north Texas



Nighthawk (Nightjar family)
Nigththawk
Like me, you may have called it a Whippoorwill, but what you heard was probably a Nighthawk or Chuck-will’s Widow. They’re in the Nightjar family. They’re neither hawks, nor do they fly at night (although they may keep you awake at night with their calls). They only eat insects, which they catch in mid-air with unusually large mouths, hunting  mainly at dusk. During the day they sleep, well camouflaged, on a patch of flat ground, or the top of a post; sometimes on a flat roof of a house.

 

What’s that smell?     Especially at this time of year, unwanted animals get into trash, raid birdfeeders, and tear up storage bins etc. A low-cost remedy is plain old ammonia, available cheaply at any grocery store. Soak a rag in some or put some in a dish and raccoons, armadillos, possums, stray dogs etc. won’t stick around. It even works on rats. Birds, however, have little or no sense of smell and don’t even know it’s there.

 

 OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"getting plants wet" is what it boils down to

The proper method of watering is frequently overthought. The purpose is just to get plants wet.  It's that simple.

 Drip irrigation works in one situation – row crops where there are emitters at the bases of plants. Even there the system isn’t perfect. You can’t see where the water is going and the maintenance is high. It’s impossible to avoid dry spots and supersaturated spots. Rodents love to eat holes in the tapes and tubes.  In landscape, especially in groundcover beds, drip is a poor choice at best, and a disaster in most cases. 

 Spray systems are usually better. You can see where the water is going and there is better coverage. Plants like to be watered from above – like when it rains. Don’t accept the claim that moisture on the foliage leads to disease issues. That’s just not the case . Drip systems might save a little water, but if the plants die, what have you gained? 

Several cities are now dictating the use of drip irrigation. These policies should be changed. An alternate policy of requiring organic landscape management would save a great deal of water. It would also reduce air, soil and water pollution. Landscape projects would also look better, be healthier and be easier to maintain.

 
 
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.
 


Monday, September 7, 2015

Are there Bluebirds in north Texas???


 
Eastern Bluebirds
Bluebirds are here in north Texas all year long. They’re shy and prefer open meadows, which are disappearing fast. That’s why we don’t see them much. But they’re here. The bluebird population (the “Eastern Bluebird” – the one here in north Texas) declined about 90% between 1900 and the early 70s. Now there is a slight resurgence thanks to humans feeding and putting out appropriate housing.





8 million tons of trees are cut down yearly  …just to make catalogs. Birds lived and raised nestlings in now-cut-down trees. But now there’s a free service to help you decide what goes into your mailbox. You click on www.CatalogChoice.org  to check it out. Catalog Choice is endorsed by the Nat’l Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Defense Council. Not only can it stop mass-mailed junk catalogs, but lets you stop “special interest” catalogs that may or may not be of interest to you.

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

September is crucial for our hummingbirds; they need your help


 
 


We are about to enter a very critical period for north Texas hummingbirds. Our hummingbirds will leave us toward the end of this September to start their fall migration to Mexico and Central America.  The quality of food you put out has nothing at all to do with the time they depart (it’s totally genetic – spurred by length of day). But the nectar they get in September can mean life or death.

The hummingbirds need to put on all the energy-producing fat they can in order to successfully make the long flight, which is mostly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. Without enough fat stored up, they may not make it!
 
This is why September is so critical. Put out feeders filled with clear, fresh nectar (none of that red stuff), helping them “pork up” for the long migration, and encouraging them to return to your yard next spring. 

 

What’s with all the leaves falling?  All trees (except for cone-bearing tree like pines) are losing leaves in our current hot/dry weather. It may be showing up stronger this year because of the cool and super-wet spring. It's basically a normal adjustment in the tree’s transpiration system. When it's extremely hot, plants can lose more moisture going out from the leaves than the root system can pull up from the ground. Thus the trees even things out by dropping some foliage. It’s nothing to be alarmed about.

To counteract this flood the entire root zone well and then wait as long as you can without the tree wilting before watering again. Your tree should be fine. It is more serious if the leaves are turning brown and staying on the tree instead of falling off.

 

            OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When is a bird “Accidental” in birdspeak?


 

"Accidental" is the term used by avid birders to describe a bird that’s visiting where it shouldn’t normally be.  One or two (or a whole flock) will suddenly show up for no apparent reason. Example: a Snow Bunting at Lake Lewisville instead of its native Pacific Northwest (it happened last year). Another real example is a Brant (a shoreline bird normally seen in winter on the east and west coasts) that was seen by several people in west Texas. The reason could be a strong wind (hurricane?) or that it just got very lost.

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Landscape Architect’s view of dead trees and birds:


By this time, all of the trees in north Texas that are still alive have leafed out long ago. So we can plainly see what trees are dead.  If a dead tree is in danger of falling on your house or into the street, by all means cut it down (after making sure there are no nests in it).  How you cut it down however can make a big difference. Birds live in trees, and fewer trees mean fewer birds.


At my house, I have most dead trees cut down, leaving very tall stumps;  6 feet or 12 feet tall!    What’s left is a stump (and sometimes bigger branches) for birds to perch on and make nests in. If the stump attracts ants or other bugs, most birds will take care of that matter!   (HINT: mark dead trees now, so they can be cut in the winter).


What’s removed frlom a dead tree is the flared top – the “crown” that can catch a strong wind, causing it to sway and possibly topple.  The wood in these tall stumps gets softer over time, making it easy for birds to excavate a roost or home.   Hence, more birds!


 

Is this sexist?       In almost all bird species, only the male sings. Mainly it’s for courtship and territorial reasons. In a very few species (in north Texas, the Carolina Wren and Northern Cardinal) the female also sings occasionally.
 

 OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Here's why native plants will probably lower your water bill

Most native plants (plants that grow here naturally) have deep, extensive root systems. The roots let then get hold of water that's out of the reach of other plants, and survive extended periods of drought and heat.

You can see that in the drawing above. Typically, the root system of Little Blue Stem (sixth from right) is a little over 6 feet deep and Purple Coneflower is roughly 5 feet deep. By comparison, the roots of Bermuda grass go less than a foot deep, and St.Augustine roots are about 2 inches deep - so they demand a lot of expensive water to stay green.

As you know, a Texas summer bakes the ground and kills shallow-rooted plants. But native plants have grown here naturally for centuries, without anyone watering or fertilizing them.


are old birdnests re-used?             Hardly ever! A very few cavity-nesting birds will re-use nests within the same breeding season, even though there are real health dangers (tiny mite eggs may have been brought in, which could hatch and infest nestlings). But ALL birds will insist on finding (or making) new nests in subsequent seasons. That’s why I strongly recommend removing old, empty nests and cleaning out empty birdhouses.
 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.  (If you want an e-mail copy of the "roots" drawing, request it by e-mail)