(News article for May 6, 2023; edited)
In recognition of April 2023 having been named Native Plant Month in Louisiana, I recently wrote about a few of my favorite native trees and fruit plants. This week, I’m writing about a few more plants – including a shrub and several herbaceous perennials – as well as some native plant resources.
American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a deciduous shrub that grows to about 6 feet tall and wide. The plant is nondescript until late summer and fall, when it has abundant berries. Fruit is typically purple, but white- and pink-fruited forms exist. American beautyberry can grow in full sun to partial shade, though it generally produces more berries in full sun. It has been named a Louisiana Super Plant.
Gulf Coast or hairawn muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is another Louisiana Super Plant that puts on a show in the fall, when it flowers. Most forms of Gulf Coast muhly have pink inflorescences, or flower heads, which I like. Several years ago, I saw pink muhly flowering next to American beautyberry plants covered in fruit. The combination was beautiful.
Gulf Coast muhly grows to about 3 feet tall and wide. Plant it in well-drained locations. It will flower best in full sun. It’s recommended that the grass be left undisturbed – even though it may be brown – during most of the winter and trimmed to about 1 foot tall during late winter, shortly before new growth begins.
Few plants have red flowers as striking as those of Texas star hibiscus or scarlet rosemallow (Hibiscus coccineus). This is a root-hardy perennial in Louisiana that blooms in the summer. It’s native to wet areas and needs adequate water. Dimensions of approximately 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide are common, though it can grow larger. Plant it in full sun or partial shade.
One plant I’ve become more familiar with recently is lanceleaf coreopsis or tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata). Like orange coneflower, swamp sunflower, and great or giant coneflower that I’ve written about before, this is a yellow-flowered perennial in the aster family. It flowers primarily in spring but often has some blooms through the summer. It should be planted on a sunny, well-drained site for best performance.
Finally, I’ll mentioned some of my favorite wetland plants, the white-flowered southern swamp lily (Crinum americanum; sometimes called "seven sisters") and the Louisiana irises, including Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris), I. giganticaerulea (giant blue iris), I. hexagona (dixie iris), I. fulva (copper iris), Iris x nelsonii (Abbeville iris), and hybrids among these.
Some useful sources of information about plants native to Louisiana include the US Geological Survey’s Plants of Louisiana site and the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources’ Louisiana Plant Identification and Interactive Ecosystem Virtual Tours website.
The former site has information about both woody and herbaceous plants, while the latter focuses on woody plants. Not all plants on either site are native, but many are, and the sites typically indicate whether plants are native or introduced.
Let me know if you have questions.
Contact Mary Helen Ferguson.
American beautyberry (Photo: LSU AgCenter)
Texas star hibiscus (Photo by M.H. Ferguson)
Southern swamp lily (Crinum americanum; photo by M.H. Ferguson)