Time and Space: The Players

Mourning Cloak CPG in Acadia Parish on April 26, 2008.

Mourning Cloak butterfly–an extremely rare visitor–in the Cajun Prairie Gardens in Acadia Parish on April 26, 2008. (photo by Caroline Vidrine Withers)

The Cajun Prairie Restoration Project and The Cajun Prairie Gardens as classrooms demonstrate the dynamics of time and space in the changes that occur in a diverse ecosystem over time, both seasonal and through ecological succession. Seasonal changes are my initial focus, whereas, changes in ecological succession will be taken up in later essays. The Cajun Prairie Restoration Project is 26 years old, while the Cajun Prairie Gardens are 20 years old. The story of ecological succession will focus on the changes in the gardens over the years as they have developed, while the seasonal stories will focus on the changes that can be observed during a single year.

I am giving a lot of thought as to how to present this information in both an entertaining and an educational way, such that the product will entice interest among readers to build a garden that they can use to entertain and educate not only themselves but also their communities of neighbors, friends and students. I have decided to literally take it a month at a time and photographically walk through the gardens showing both scenes and specific flowers. I had the good fortune of having a camera that places the date and time of the photo as evidence of the time of the event, and this should be not only helpful to me in recounting events but also to the reader as you comprehend the timing of the events within the space of the gardens.

Several venues (in no special order in this effort) will be followed to elucidate time and space in the gardens:

1. A month by month discussion with essays on each month/blooming season.
2. Essays on individual plants—usually genera, e. g., Iris, Tradescantia, etc.
3. Pictorial essay with the view from the front yard.
4. Pictorial essays with views from varied spaces that might be used to demonstrate the timely changes in landscape.
5. An occasional essay that elucidates some specific aspect of the prairie that I think is of great importance.

The seasonal changes will be evidenced in stories and photographs depicting: 1. the phenology of blooming of the major plants, 2. the flight seasons of the butterflies, 3. the ever-changing landscape, 4. the flight seasons of the dragonflies and 5. other events and organisms that elucidate some interesting aspect of the prairie. These have been my focus for 30 years of watching the Cajun Prairie. In case you are interested in other groups, various scientists have focused and are focusing on birds, bees, trees, mushrooms, mammals, reptiles and other aspects of the prairie.

In the 2010 book entitled The Cajun Prairie: A Natural History, I have both listed the plants according to Larry Allain’s Coefficents of Conservatism and outlined two decades of phenology studies of blooming plants by Charles Allen and others. These observations were combined with mine in order to produce a long chart of blooming times for Cajun Prairie plants. These times did vary from one year to the next and to some extent with the stage of succession of the garden under study. While there is much variation in the gardens, the remnant prairies as I recall were far less variable—apparently their deep root systems companioned with their diverse inter-relationships with soil biota and one another stabilized them such that they ‘worried’ little about wet versus dry seasons nor about extreme changes in temperature and even an occasional wildfire or mowing. The latter events reset their blooming times on several occasions and even exacerbated their blooming abundance and lengthened their bloom season. Aside from all these distractions, our focus here will be on blooms during the 2015 growing season in both the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project and the Cajun Prairie Gardens, both in the Eunice area.

The major players in our discussions and in the drama of life on the prairie are the plants of the Cajun Prairie. A list of the major genera of ferns, grasses, and forbs is here provided. These would be found in some assortment in any Cajun Prairie remnant habitat as well as in any Cajun Prairie garden. The majority of these species are elements of my gardens, but a good number have yet to be grown successfully. Photographs of these plants are available online at many sites as well as in numerous wildflower books. Many of them will be featured in my upcoming discussions. General common names are provided to add color to an otherwise fairly dry list of names, but then actors typically go by stage names that reflect some aspect of their personality or character, e. g., nicknames.

The Players

Agalinis (5 species)—false foxgloves
Aletris (2 species)—colic-roots
Alium (2 species)—wild onions and garlics
Amsonia tabernaemontana—bluestars
Andropogon (3 species)—bluestems
Anemone caroliniana—anemones
Aristida (3 species)—three-awn grasses
Arnoglossum plantagineum –Indian plantains
Asclepias (8 species) –milkweeds
Aster (see Symphyotrichium and Eurybia) (5 species)—asters

Baptisia (4 species)—false indigos
Bidens aristosa—beggar’s ticks
Bigelowia virgata—rayless goldenrods
Boltonia (2 species)—doll’s daisies
Buchnera americana–bluehearts

Cacalia (see Arnoglossum)
Caenothus americanus—New Jersey teas
Callirhoe papaver—winecups
Calopogon oklahomensis—grass pink orchids
Canna flavida—cannas
Carex (3 species)—caric sedges
Cassia (see Chamescrista)
Centrosema virginianum—pigeonwings
Chamescrista fasciculata—partridge peas
Chrysopsis mariana—Maryland goldenasters
Cicuta maculata—water hemlocks
Cirsium horridulum—thistles
Claytonia virginica—spring beauties
Clematis crispa—leather flowers
Coelorachis rugosa—joint grasses
Conoclinum (2 species)—mistflowers
Cooperia drummondii—evening rain lilies
Coreopsis (4 species)—tickseeds
Crinum americanum—American lilies
Crotolaria sagitallis—arrowleaf rattleboxes
Croton capitatus—goatweeds
Ctenium aromaticum—toothache grasses
Cuscuta indecora—dodders
Cyperus (many species)—flat sedges

Dalea candida—prairie clovers
Desmanthus (2 species)—bundleflowers
Desmodium (2 species)—tick trefoils
Dicanthelium (2 species)—rosette-grasses
Drosera brevifolia—sundews

Echinacea pallida—Pale purple coneflowers
Eleocharis (3 species)—spikerushes
Eragrostis (many species)—lovegrasses
Erigeron (3 species)—fleabanes
Eryngium (2 species)—button snakeroots
Erythrina herbacea—Mamous
Eupatorium (4 species)—thoroughworts
Euphorbia corallata—flowering spurges
Eurybia hemisphaerica—showy asters
Euthamia (2 species)—grass-leaved goldenrods

Fimbristylis (3 species)—fimbrys

Gaillardia aestivalis—Indian blankets
Galactea volubilis—downy milkpeas
Gaura (2 species)—beeblossums
Geranium sp.—wild geraniums

Hedyotis nigracans—bluets
Helianthus (2 species)—sunflowers
Herbertia lahue—prairienymphs

Hibiscus moschentous lasiocarpus—rose mallows
Houstonia (3 species)–bluets
Hydrolea ovata—blue waterleafs
Hymenocallis liriosme-Fragrant spiderlily
Hypericum (4 species)—St. John worts
Hypoxis hirsuta—yellow star grasses
Hyptis alata—cluster bushmints

Ipomoea sagittata—salt marsh morning glories
Iris (5 species)—Louisiana irises
Juncus (3 species)—rushes

Krigia dandelion—potato dwarf dandelions

Lamium amplexicaulis—henbits
Lantana camara—lantanas
Lechea (3 species)—pinweeds
Lespedeza (2 species)—lespedezas
Liatris (5 species)—blazing stars
Lippia nodiflora—frogfruits
Lobelia (3 species)–lobelias
Ludwigia (3 species)—primrosewillows
Lythrum alatum—loosestrifes

Manfreda virginica—American aloes
Mimosa hystricina—sensitive briars
Monarda (3 species)–beebalms
Muhlenbergia capillaris—muhly grasses

Neptunia (2 species)—yellow puffs
Nothoscordum bivalve—false garlics, crowpoisons

Oenothera (4 specios)—primroses
Oligoneuron nitida—shiny goldenrods
Orybelium/Psoralea (2 species)—snakeroots and scurfpeas
Oxalis (3 species) –wood-sorrels

Panicum (4 species)—switchgrass and panic grasses
Paspalum (4 species)—paspalums
Passiflora (2 species)—passionvines
Pedicularis canadensis—louseworts
Penstamom (2 species)—beardtongues
Phlox pilosa—prairie phloxes
Physostegia (3 species)—obedient plants
Pinguicula pumila—butterworts
Pityopsis graminifolia—golden-asters
Platanthera nivea—snowy orchids
Pluchea (2 species)–camphorweeds
Polygala (5 species)—candyroots and milkworts
Polytaenia nuttaliana—prairie parsleys
Pontedaria cordata—pickerelweeds
Prunella vulgaris—selfheals, heal-alls
Pteroglossapsis ecristata—giant orchids
Pteridium aquilinum -–bracken ferns
Pycnanthemum (3 species)—mountain mints

Ranunculus (3 species)—buttercups
Ratibida pinnata—pinnate prairie coneflowers
Rhexia mariana—meadow beauties
Rhynchospora (many species)—beaksedges
Rubus (2 species)—black and dewberries
Rudbeckia (4 species)—black-eyed susans
Ruellia (2 species)—petunias
Rumex (2 species)—curly docks

Sabatia (4 species)—pinks
Saccharum giganteum—sugarcane plume grasses
Salvia (2 species)—sages
Schizacharium (3 species)—little bluestems
Schrankia ( see Mimosa)
Scleria (3 species)—nutrushes
Scutellaria (2 species)—skullcaps
Senecio glabellus--butterweeds
Silphium (3 species)—rosinweeds and compass plants
Sisyrinchium (5 species)—blue-eyed grasses
Solanum (2 species)—horsenettles and nightshades
Solidago (5 species)—goldenrods
Sonchus sp.—dandelions
Sorghastrum nutans—Indian grass
Spartina (2 species)—cordgrasses
Spiranthes (3 species)—ladies tresses
Sporobolus (3 species)—dropseeds
Stachys floridana—Florida hedgenettles
Strophostyles umbellata—pink fuzzybean
Stylosanthes biflora—sidebeak pencil-flowers
Symphyotrichium (5 species)—asters

Tephrosia onybrychoides—hoarypeas
Thalea dealbata—powdery thaleas
Tradescantia (3 species)—spiderworts
Tragia (2 species)—noseburns
Tridens (3 species)—tridens
Tripsacum dactyloides—eastern gama grasses
Typha latifolia –cattails

Valesinaria sp.—stadium lights
Verbena (2 species)—vervains
Vernonia (2 species)—ironweeds
Vicia loudoviciana—Louisiana vetches
Viola (2 species)—violets

Xyris (3 species)—yellow eyed grasses.

Posted by M. F. Vidrine.


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