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Friday - July 25, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a Austin thicket underlayer
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We live in Austin, west of 183. We are planning to put a thicket in our backyard, where there is no threat of deer. Anchoring the thicket are a clump of live oaks, a Texas persimmon, an Eve's Necklace and a Texas kidneywood. We're ready for the next layer. So far, we know we want elbow bush and were thinking about American beautyberry, but realize that probably wants more water than we get. The purpose of the thicket is to attract and provide shelter for pollinators. Any suggestions about the middle layer? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Here’s the Wildflower Center record for your established plants:

Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak), Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon) (10-35 ft.), Styphnolobium affine (Eve's necklace) (15-30 ft.),  Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood), ( 3-10 ft.)   All of them prefer dry soil and full sun, or at least partial shade.

and your proposed plants:

Forestiera pubescens (Stretchberry) - shrub 5-10 ft - - exists well in any soil moisture and any degree of sun or shade.
Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) - - shrub 3-6 feet - - needs partial shade and moist soil, so I think your analysis is correct. Beautyberry doesn't fit well with the characteristics of your established plants.

What would I suggest for the middle layer?  To form my suggestions, I use the “Recommended Species” lists that the Wildflower Center maintains.  This is a link to the  Texas-Central Collection
Then, on the left hand side of the screen, there are options to reduce the selection based on various characteristics.  As this is for your underlayer – I chose  sun or partial shade, and 1-3 and 3-6 feet.

For shrubs, this resulted in 18 candidates.  One has to actually read the plant record for its BENEFIT to see if it provides nesting material or pollen for pollinators.  It seems most of the low native plants are attractive to pollinators.  Here are a few of those to consider.

Shrubs:
Ageratina havanensis (Shrubby boneset)
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)
Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita)
Dalea frutescens (Black dalea)
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap)
Salvia greggii (Autumn sage)

And for Herbs I found 49 candidates, here are 6 of the first that have benefit for pollinators:
Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)
Asclepias asperula (Spider milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)
Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata (Partridge pea)
Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)
Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

 

From the Image Gallery


Shrubby boneset
Ageratina havanensis

Flame acanthus
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Damianita
Chrysactinia mexicana

Black dalea
Dalea frutescens

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Antelope horns
Asclepias asperula

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata

Blue mistflower
Conoclinium coelestinum

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

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