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 Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

A Bounty of Edibles for New Braunfels Texas


Topic:
Author: Leslie Uppinghouse
Date: Friday - October 25, 2013
From: New Braunfels, TX

QUESTION: I was hoping you could suggest a few plants that would serve several purposes. I live in New Braunfels, TX and would like to incorporate as many drought tolerant plants which would support birds, butterflies and hummingbirds as well as provide some type of edible item for humans. I have a few windows I would like to add some security too so a few thorny, dense shrubs would be great as well. Thank you!

ANSWER:

You are blessed to live in an area of Texas with an abundance of edible options. New Braunfels Texas shares two counties Comal and Guadalupe and in this list below are plants native in your area. It might be more than what you are looking for but with so many good options it is hard to edit these down. As you click on the links for each plant you will see photos of each plant as well as specific care information in terms of how much water they will need and what type of soil they prefer. You will also see what type of food they provide and for whom.

In terms of what plants you can find to feed yourself and your critters, this list is only a taste of what you could use (pun intended). Lets divide these up into catagories: Trees, bushes, and flowers and we will throw in a grass and a vine as well to round it out.

Lets start with trees. Trees provide the most bang for the buck when you are talking about variety of benifits. They provide you coverage and privacy. They also provide a multitude of food for mammals, birds, insects and people. Here are some amazing trees for you to consider that are native to your two counties that don't require a lot of water once established:

Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon) is a small tree, normally 10-15ft tall, it is also drought tolerant. Deciduous to semi-evergreen, this tree can provide you with the coverage and privacy you are looking for. The fruit is edible to people, birds and mammals, a favorite for deer and peccary. The flowers attract butterflies of all types and provide larva food for the Gray Hairstreak and Henry's Elfin butterfly.

Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) is a must have for any bird lover in your area. This understory tree is common natively in both Comal and Guadalupe county and although it prefers some moisture knowing that it does well in your counties historically, should give you the ok for it doing well for you at home. The female trees produce a bright red berry in the winter that are devoured by song birds and game birds  and mammals including opossum and raccoon.

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) is a medium sized tree of 15-35ft. It can handle dry or moist conditions. The plums are edible and attract birds, bees, and mammals. It is a great larva tree for the Cecropia moth who will also overwinter in a cocoon made from the plum leaves.

Another great drought tolerant small tree that doesn't provide food for people but is a tremendous plant for attracting bees, so much so that it is commonly called Bee Brush is Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood). This is a light and fluffy tree that lends itself to a bush shape. It is very drought tolerant and blooms for an extended period from late spring to late fall. Very aromatic, kidneywood attracts all kinds of pollinators and is a larva food for the Dogface butterfly. It is palatable by deer and goats, the bushy branching helps to protect the plant and it doesn't seem to mind the abuse.

Moving to bushes, you have here some plants that can perhaps reach the height you are seeking for coverage or you may use them in combination with some trees to achieve the privacy you are looking for:

Prunus rivularis (Creek plum) or Hog plum is a nice shrub that provides good overall cover with ornamental blooms that attract pollinating insects and fruit that is consumed by birds and mammals. This fruit should not be eaten by people, just critters.

Zanthoxylum hirsutum (Texas hercules' club) is a lovely thorny shrub. it is a favorite larva food for the Giant swallowtail. It is a medicinal and culinary plant. The fruit is used sometimes in Chinese cooking and both the fruit and the leaves numb the mouth and have been used to treat toothaches.

Ageratina havanensis (Havana snakeroot) or Shrubby boneset is an improtant bush for the pollinators. Hummingbirds, moths and butterflies, especially Rawsons Metalmark, love this fluffy bush.

The fruit of Capsicum annuum (Chile pequin) is readily available for consumption by humans. Chile pequin is a cheery small bush that produces tons of bright red tiny peppers that are a favorite of good cooks and Cardinals. 

Other flowers that draw in the pollinators with foragable food for larva or nectar for the flyers are: Asclepias asperula (Spider milkweed)Asclepias viridis (Green antelopehorn)Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)Liatris punctata (Dotted blazing star)Penstemon cobaea (Wild foxglove) and Rivina humilis (Pigeonberry). If you click on these links and scroll down to the Benifits section, it will list which type of fauna is attracted to each plant.

You may also want to play around with a vine or add some grass to the mix. Vitis mustangensis (Mustang grape) is a great food producing vine for humans, birds and some mammals. And for a good feed producing grass you can't beat Eriochloa sericea (Texas cupgrass).

The list could go on and on as you have so much to choose from. Play around with the Plant Database to find other options in your area and enjoy the bounty.

From the Image Gallery


Rivina humilis

Vitis mustangensis

Liatris punctata

Penstemon cobaea

Capsicum annuum

Prunus mexicana
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