Identify the habitat where you live

In his landmark book, Native Gardening in the South, Bill Fontenot identifies numerous Southern terrestrial plant communities, associations of trees, shrubs, and/or herbaceous species that are often found growing together in distinct habitat types created by particular combinations of topography, soil, water, and climate. Even if you live in an urban or suburban area, the older vegetation on your property may be a clue to its original habitat type, which in turn can guide your choice of site-appropriate natives to restore or add to a property.

Three plant communities common to Lafayette Parish, for example, are Coastal Tallgrass Prairie, Bottomland Hardwood Forest and Loess Slope (upland hardwood) Forest.

Coastal Tallgrass Prairie

Plant community includes Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Lovegrasses, Switchgrass, Indian Grass, Dropseeds, Carex and Umbrella Sedges, Rattlesnake-master (shown), Indian Plantain, Sunflowers, Blazing Stars, Milkweeds, Rosin-weeds, False Indigos, Blue Star, Coneflowers, Brown-eyed and Black-eyed Susans, Wild Petunia, Primroses, Tickseeds, Goldenrods, False Foxgloves, Thoroughworts, Mints, Mountain Mints, and Poppy Mallow.

Bottomland Hardwood Forest – Live Oak type

Live Oak is dominant, with other native oak species such as Water Oak and Nuttall Oak. Other bottomland hardwood species include Water Hickory, Pecan, Green Ash, Hackberry, Swamp Dogwood, Swamp Privet, Sweet Gum, American Elm, Swamp Red Maple, Sycamore, Red Mulberry, Deciduous Holly, Elderberry, Dwarf Palmetto, and American Beautyberry. Herbaceous species include Green Dragon, ZigZag Iris, Spiderwort, Black Snakeroot, Wild Petunia, Southern Shield Fern, and woody vines such as Carolina Moonseed, Poison Ivy, Greenbrier, Crossvine, Trumpet Creeper, and Rattan Vine.

Loess Slope Hardwood Forest

Plant community includes Cherrybark Oak, Swamp Chestnut Oak, Water Oak, Tulip Poplar, Southern Magnolia, American and Slippery Elms, Basswood, Pignut and Butternut Hickories, PawPaw, Red Buckeye, Two-winged Silverbell, Eastern Redbud, American Hornbeam, Giant Cane, Spicebush, Eastern Coralbean, and Muscadine. Herbaceous plants include Snakeroots, Mayapple, Trillium, Woodland Phlox, Cardinal Flower, and False Foxglove.

A Special Note on Prairie Indicator Plants

When you start looking around your yard and neighborhood, if you see any of these beauties, you may be looking at descendants of our great Coastal Prairie wilderness. Cherish them and learn how to propagate them! To further identify prairie natives and the insects, butterflies, and animals that depend on them, an outstanding online resource is available at http://www.nwrc.usgs.gov/prairie/paradise_lost.pdf .

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