By Roger Sanderson, Director of Botanical Gardens at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Although we have already had a slight freeze or two, some plants are still flowering, the berries of several plants are now ripe, and the fall color of leaves seems better this year, probably in response to the harsh drought conditions the plants endured until late in the season. It is supposed to freeze again tonight and we will continue to have brief overnight freezes for a while, so many of the flowers I’ve listed below will continue to decline over the next several weeks.
On the Sanctuary:
• Most of the Goldenrods have finished, but many still have some limited blooms.
• Mealy Blue Sage appears to like the cooler weather and is still showy.
• Persimmon Trees have bright yellow foliage, but resist the temptation to eat the fruit until after a hard freeze causes the flesh to ferment and get sweet.
• The Hackberry Trees have brown leaves, but the berries (A good crop despite the drought conditions) are a purple red. The berries are mostly all seed, but try putting some in your mouth and sucking off the sweet skin. It’s obvious why the variety most often found in North Texas is referred to as “Sugarberry.”
• The Carolina Moonseed Vines are dropping their leaves, making their showy translucent berries even more dramatic!
• The Possum Haw Hollies are covered in bright red berries, but they haven’t dropped their leaves yet, so their real impact isn’t for a while yet.
• This is the time to harvest some Mistletoe for Christmas decorations – and help out the host plant at the same time. As you know they are parasites on many of our native trees, especially Hackberry, Elms, and Bois d’arc. What you might not know is that Mistletoe is in turn a host plant for perhaps the showiest of our native butterflies, the Great Purple Hairstreak!
• The Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum is usually at its most colorful this time of year, the blue berries contrasting with the purple foliage. Unfortunately, due to the drought, berry production is pretty minimal this year.
In the Gardens:
• The Four-Nerve Daisies really appreciate this cooler weather and are blooming better than they did this summer.
• The Mountain Sage still has limited blooms.
• Likewise, the Autumn Sage is not near what it was a month ago, but still shows considerable color.
• The Pineapple Sage continues its blaze of red flowers!
• Texas Betony is still showing some color.
• The Desert Marigolds are really spectacular!
• Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye has lots of flowers.
• So does the Hairy Zexmania.
• A few Creeping Phlox are confused as to what season this is and are blooming like it was spring!
• The Pacific (Gold & Silver) Chrysanthemum is at its peak.
• Fall color is still fairly impressive with the Smoke Tree, the Bigtooth Maple, and the Caddo Maple.
• The Texabama Croton shows fairly nice color, but I expect it to get much better as the season gets even colder.
• Although only a few Turk’s Caps still have flowers, the color is maintained by their showy, red, edible fruit.