Centered: Fall/Winter 2020

by | Sep 15, 2020 | Center News

Desert rose-mallow , Horse tail milkweed, Cory’s pipevine

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT Desert rose-mallow,  horsetail milkweed and Cory’s pipevine PHOTOS M. Falk, Alan Cressler and Richard Rintz

Mountain Standard Time

The Wildflower Center recently added more mountain to its West Texas Mountain Collection. OK, perhaps “mountain” is an overstatement, but the terraced garden beds across from our Observation Tower mimic a mountain landscape to some extent, so we’re taking advantage and expanding our high-and-dry offerings to a new area.

Wildflower Center Director of Horticulture AndreaDeLong-Amaya says she wanted to represent West Texas “in a bigger way” to continue owning up to our title as the state botanic garden. She also wanted this particular collection — which is spread among beds near our Administration building, Wildflower Café, the Library and, now, leading from the Courtyard toward the Savanna Meadow — to offer guests a “richer interpretive experience.”

The original West Texas Mountain Collection was planted in 2007. The new expansion takes over a nearby terraced area that “looked good before but wasn’t really an exhibit with a theme,” per DeLong-Amaya. Plants now growing there were selected based on natural elevation ranges (using the Chisos and Davis Mountains for inspiration), with an eye for species that are common to or iconic of Texas mountains, not to mention things we could obtain as well as “really cool stuff,” as DeLong-Amaya puts it.

One noteworthy species she lists is desert rose-mallow (Hibiscus coulteri) which features pale yellow flowers that look like tissue paper. “I’ve seen full patches of it out in Big Bend,” says DeLong-Amaya, “and it’s beautiful.” Mariola (Parthenium incanum); horsetail milkweed (Asclepias subverticillata); five species of penstemon (Penstemon spp.); and two buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.), what DeLong-Amaya describes as “low, pincushiony plants,” also made the cut. Cory’s pipevine (Aristolochia coryi) that’s “tucked into little cracks” will spread across rocks and fill in gaps as well. The area currently features at least 28 species not on display elsewhere in the gardens.

DeLong-Amaya knows not all of these new-to-the-Center species will survive in our more humid climate, but she plans to replace those that fail and keep experimenting: “That’s gardening,” she says.


Pink sunset and clouds reflected in a stock tank pond in the Wildflower Center's Theme Gardens

Sunset in the Wildflower Center’s Theme Gardens. PHOTO Wildflower Center

Square Dance

Easily recognized by their boxy plots and flanked by vine-covered arbors, the Center’s Theme Gardens, which demonstrate various uses and categories of native plants, welcomed a few updates this year.

Plants from the Chalk Prairie Theme Garden moved into a sunnier section of the nearby Woodland Garden, consolidating plants that naturally occur together for a more fully representative Hill Country collection.

A new Pollinator Syndromes Garden has been planted to educate visitors about which flower shapes, colors and attributes attract certain types of pollinators. (Learn more about pollinator syndromes here.)

Plants from the Wildflower Center nursery will be “let out of captivity,” as Wildflower Center Director of Horticulture Andrea DeLong-Amaya puts it, in a new Trials Theme
Garden. The idea is to see, through monitoring and observation, how certain native plants that are new to horticulture respond in a cultivated setting.

And a Botanical Keys Theme Garden featuring three common plant families — Fabaceae, Scrophulariaceae and Asteraceae — will introduce guests to the concept of a botanical key and how to use one to identify plants.