Kansas gayfeather–the most abundant blazingstar at the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice.



Agalinis sp. (False foxgloves) along with Kansas gayfeather in the Cajun Prairie. These are the hosts for caterpillar of the Buckeye butterfly.


Several species begin reaching for 7-8 feet and will probably achieve 9-10 feet by the end of the season. This is the month when the sunflower family makes its final push to maximize its views in the prairie.

Masses of Liatris pycnostachya (Kansas gayfeather) bloom all month long. They usually reach their maximum bloom around the 10th of the month, and an extraordinary view is available at many locations in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice, where there are some 50,000 stems blooming in 2015.

oct87 kinder liatris elegans

Pinkscale gayfeather among Sweet goldenrods.



Sweet goldenrods dipping into one of the trails at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.


Liatris elegans (Pinkscale gayfeather) starts up near the end of the month and maxes in October. Pinkscale gayfeather is the last to bloom among the blazing stars. It blooms in late September into October. It was rare in the remnant prairies, and it does not persist in our gardens. I recall it as being common in sandy areas in the piney woods.The goldenrods (Solidago spp.) explode into bloom. Solidago odora (Sweet goldenrod) makes an excellent licorice-tasting tea.


Beggar’s ticks at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



Solidago altissima (= S. canadensis) is the Common goldenrod.


Bidens aristosa (Beggar’s ticks or Beggarticks) gets up to 10 feet tall and forms masses in early succession and disturbed areas during most of September. The plants persist for 5-10 years in an area, although they are annuals. Their dissected leaves permit identification as they closely resemble another early succession species, Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp sunflower), a perennial sunflower that has linear leaves and blooms as October begins in the Cajun Prairie.


Swamp sunflowers and morning-glories in the Cajun Prairie Gardens.




Big bluestem (center) and Switchgrasses in the background in the Cajun Prairie Gardens.


Many other large blooming plants are evident among the tall grasses, including Giant ironweed, Tall tickseed, and numerous goldenrods.


Giant ironweed.




Doll’s daisies.


The ‘Asters’ begin blooming. Boltonia spp. (Doll’s daisies), Pityopsis graminifolia (Grass-leaf goldenaster, Chrysopsis mariana (Maryland goldenaster), Symphyotrichum praealtum (Willow aster), Symphyotrichum concolor (Eastern silvery aster) and many others dot the landscape.

aster concolor

Eastern silvery aster.


Many other bloomers reach their maximum in September including Pycnanthemum albescens (White-leaf mountain mint) and Physostegia virginiana var. praemorsa (Obedient plant).


White-leaf mountain mint.




Obedient plants among the grasses.


The large grasses are in full bloom in September, including Andropogon gerardi (Big bluestem), Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gama grass) and Sorghastrum nutans (Indian grass or Yellow Indian grass).


Big bluestem.



Yellow Indian grass.




A clump of Eastern gama grass (its 3rd blooming of the season–it has been blooming sporadically since May) with a background of Beggar’s ticks at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.


What was blooming in the Cajun Prairie Gardens on September 1, 2015?

  1. Silphium laciniatum
  2. Silphium gracile
  3. Gaura lindheimeri
  4. Rudbeckia hirta
  5. Coreopsis tinctoria
  6. Ruellia spp.
  7. Euphorbia corallata
  8. Conoclinium coelestinum
  9. Tephrosia onobrychoides
  10. Rudbeckia hirta
  11. Eryngium yuccifolium
  12. Ipomoea spp.
  13. Chamescrista fasciculata
  14. Passiflora incarnata
  15. Canna spp.
  16. Coreopsis tripteris
  17. Helianthus mollis
  18. Liatris acedota
  19. *Liatris pycnostachya
  20. Liatris squarrosa
  21. Arnoglossum ovatum
  22. Manfreda virginica
  23. Salvia azurea
  24. Hydrolea ovata
  25. Rhexia mariana
  26. Lythrum lineare
  27. Galactea volubilis
  28. Gaillardia aestivalis
  29. Helenium spp.
  30. Strophlostyles sp.
  31. Centrosema virginianum
  32. Rudbeckia subtomentosa
  33. Gaura longiflora
  34. Pycnanthemum albescens
  35. Vernonia gigantea
  36. Monarda punctata
  37. Physostegia virginiana var. praemorsa
  38. *Eupatorium spp.
  39. *Boltonia spp.
  40. *Agalinis spp.
  41. *Bidens aristosa
  42. *Strophlostyles umbellata
  43. *Euthamia spp.
  44. *Pluchea spp.
  45. *Aster spp.
  46. *Symphyotrichum concolor
  47. *Pitiopsis graminifolia
  48. *Chrysopsis mariana

*first blooms appear

Posted by M. F. Vidrine (021716) (





Dense blazingstar and Indian plantain in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice in 2013.



Close-up view of Dense blazingstar and Indian plantain with Spicebush swallowtail.


Several species begin reaching for 7-8 feet and will probably achieve 9-10 feet by the end of the season. On the first of August in 2015, Big bluestem was already 7 feet tall. Big grasses reach heights of 8 feet and sometimes up to 10 feet.


aug01-87 estherwood

Esterwood prairie remnant in the early morning (August 1, 1989) with tall stands of Compass plant, Dense blazingstars and Rattlesnake master. This is my most memorable view of the remnant prairies.


The month begins with a splash of Liatris spicata (Dense blazingstar), Arnoglossum ovatum (Indian plantain), and Silphium laciniatum (Compass plant). Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake master) and Helianthus mollis (Ashy sunflower) continue to bloom and dominate views. The sunflower family reigns for the next 3 months. August begins looking a lot like the end of July, and it ends with the expectation of a massive bloom of Liatris pycnostachya (Kansas gayfeather or Blazingstar)).


aug90 westmidland

West Midland remnant prairie in August 1988. Another massive stand of Dense blazingstars, Indian plantains and Rattlesnake masters.


Rhexia mariana (Maryland meadowbeauty) has been blooming since the end of May, but its pink blooms are now abundant in wet prairies. Hydrolea ovata (Blue waterleaf), Vernonia gigantea (Giant ironweed) and Ipomoea sagittata (Salt-marsh morning-glory) are also common in wet areas.



Maryland meadow beauty and Blue waterleaf in wet prairie at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



Sweet black-eyed susans at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



Spotted beebalms at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



Tall tickseed–a giant superstar in both gardens.


A plant has to be large/tall to stand out among the myriad large grasses that begin taken over the scene. The grasses include Big bluestem, Little bluestem, Yellow Indian grass, Switchgrass, Eastern gamagrass, Florida paspalum, and many others. Corepsis tripteris (Tall tickseed), Rudbeckia subtomentosa (Sweet black-eyed susans), Monarda punctata (Spotted beebalm), Salvia azurea (Blue sage), Physostegia praemorsa (Obedient plant), and Pycnanthemum albescens (White-leaf mountain mint) start to put on a show.


Marc Pastorek stands among clumps of Big bluestem at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.


Gaura parviflora (Long-flowered beeblossum) is 7-8 feet tall with tiny beeblossum blooms. Manfreda virginica (American aloe agave) stands 5-8 feet and has small flowers lacking sepals and petals; however, it has aloe agave-like leaves that often have spots. Desmodium spp. (Beggar’s ticks or lice), a very tall pea plant with small pea flowers, blooms here and there—these plants produce seed that stick tightly to clothes as one walks through the prairie in September and October.

IMG056 pecristata2 south kinder

pecristata south kinder

Three views of Wild coco orchids from the Kinder and South Fenton prairie remnants.


Pteroglossapsis ecristata (Wild coco orchid) blooms. This orchid was not common in the remnant prairies, but several specimens have survived in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice. During the 1980s, Charles Allen could spot these inconspicuous blooms, whereas I could not. Populations of this orchid persist in Kisatchie National Forest and on Fort Polk, but it is not likely surviving on the remnant prairies. Two color varieties, purple and yellow blooms, co-occurred in the remnant prairies.

August is hot, but some mornings and late afternoons are bearable. In the gardens, butterflies finally start to really increase in numbers. The most common species are Gulf fritillaries and Buckeye butterflies—caterpillars of the former feed on Passionvine (Passiflora spp.), while caterpillars of the latter feed on False foxgloves (Agalinis spp.).



Gulf fritillaries mating upon emergence of the female from her pupa.



Gulf fritillary.



Gulf fritillary caterpillar on Passionvine.


What was blooming in the Cajun Prairie Gardens on August 1, 2015?

  1. Silphium laciniatum
  2. Silphium gracile
  3. Asclepias tuberosa
  4. Asclepias perennis
  5. Asclepias lanceolata
  6. Gaura lindheimeri
  7. Rudbeckia hirta
  8. Coreopsis tinctoria
  9. Mimosa hystricina
  10. Ludwigia sp.
  11. Ruellia spp.
  12. Euphorbia corallata
  13. Conoclinium coelestinum
  14. Tephrosia onabrychoides
  15. Rudbeckia hirta
  16. Asclepias verticillata
  17. Sabatia spp.
  18. Hypericum spp.
  19. Thalea dealbata
  20. Eryngium yuccifolium
  21. Kosteletskia virginica
  22. Hibiscus coccinea
  23. Ipomoea sagittata
  24. Chamescrista fasciculata
  25. Passiflora incarnata
  26. Canna spp.
  27. Coreopsis tripteris
  28. Helianthus mollis
  29. Liatris acedota
  30. Liatris spicata
  31. Liatris squarrosa
  32. Arnoglossum ovata
  33. Manfreda virginica
  34. Salvia azurea
  35. Hydrolea ovata
  36. Pycnanthemum muticum
  37. Rhexia mariana
  38. Lythrum lineare
  39. Cephalanthus occidentalis
  40. Galactea volubilis
  41. Gaillardia aestivalis
  42. Helenium spp.
  43. Lippia sp.
  44. Strophlostyles
  45. Centrosema butterfly pea
  46. Rudbeckia subtomentosa
  47. Gaura longiflora
  48. *Pycnanthemum albescens
  49. Vernonia texana
  50. *Vernonia gigantea
  51. *Oligodendron nitida
  52. *Monarda punctata
  53. *Agalinis spp.

*first blooms apparent


Posted by M. F. Vidrine (021716) (


The 2016 Burning of the Cajun Prairie Gardens


Gail sets prairie ablaze.



Dan looks out onto the prairie.



Dan watches over the advancing flames.



One of many scenes of the prairie ablaze.



The aftermath along the northern edge.


At the end of January, we burned the gardens once again. The burn was not as thorough as usual, so we will have to either bushhog/mow or pack the remaining stubble down. A couple of inches of rain has since fallen and erased the free ash from the surface.

Posted by Malcolm Vidrine 021116 (

Louisiana Native Plant Society

Prairie dogs 020616 at Louisiana Native Plant Society

From left to right: Marc Pastorek, Charles Allen, Peter Loos, Jim Foret, Malcolm Vidrine and Larry Allain. Photo sent to me by Marc Pastorek. February 6, 2016.

At the Winter meeting last weekend, Marc Pastorek organized a prairie day. The Cajun Prairie was in focus as the old gang of prairie restorationists were gathered to speak and discuss prairies with the native plant enthusiasts from around the state. In the absence of Bill Fontenot, Jim Foret joined our gang for the group photo. We attempted to recreate the photo in the Cajun Prairie book taken by Tom Hillman in 2000.

Here is the powerpoint presentation of my talk at the meeting.

6prairie landscaping – prairie ecology for the LNPS meeting, Feb 5-7th


Posted by Malcolm Vidrine 021116 (



Early July in the Cajun Prairie Gardens. The pink blooms are Obedient plant.



The first blooms of Compass plant appear.


July is a prairie that is 6 feet tall in many places. For the first week of the month, Physostegia and Hibiscus are in elegant bloom. Several species begin reaching for 7-8 feet and will probably achieve 9-10 feet by the end of the season.  The weather is now hot and humid, and the prairie becomes unpleasant during the heat of the day; however, the prairie remains beautiful. In the gardens, the number of butterflies begins increasing and continues to do so until October. July begins looking like June and ends looking like August—mid-July appears with somewhat of a lull in activity in blooming as the transition occurs from fantastic views of Obedient plants in dry prairie to masses of sunflowers, and the wet prairie’s Crimson-eyed rosemallows wane and are replaced by short bloomers hidden among the rosemallows’ debris.

1987 first picutre july estherwood

Dr. Charles Allen in Midland prairie remnant in July 1987. Compass plants bend over in the foreground, while Ovateleaf Indian plantains and Dense blazing stars dot the background.


Silphium laciniatum (Compass plant) is a very special plant for several reasons. One, it has a huge tap root, up to 15 feet in length based on reports from the Midwest; 2, it has these remarkable laciniate leaves that turn their broad side to the sun and point their edges north and south, thus giving rise to its name, Compass plant; 3, it begins blooming as July opens—a week earlier in some cases, you will see a single flower open. This latter item connects the great prairies of the Midwest with those of the south, in that this plant also blooms on or around July 1st in Iowa and Minnesota. When you examine the bloom seasons of these prairies, it is obvious that the northern prairies bloom for 5-6 months while the southern prairies bloom for 9-10 months. The northern prairies have their blooming plants bunched up, while the southern prairie has several bloom flushes followed by lulls. In our Cajun Prairie, plants start blooming in early March and end in early November, whereas in the Midwest, blooms appear in May and end in September. When you compare genera (and some species) of specific plants, a distinct pattern is observed, e. g., Monarda fistulosa (Bergamont beebalm) blooms in June and July in the Midwest and in April to June in the Cajun Prairie. Thus you can see that the times are offset, but on July 1, the prairies of the Midwest and the South appear to align for a few weeks and enter a synchronicity, which is best evidenced by the Compass plant’s blooming. Why does this happen? In ecology, we learn that every part of the globe receives roughly the same amount of sunlight on a yearly budget, but the equator get 12 hours a day all year long, while Louisiana gets 12 hours a day only in March and September (equinoxes), but Louisiana gets 10 hours a day in December and 14 hours a day in June. In the upper Midwest, these numbers begin to show extremes, with 8 hours a day in December and 16 hours a day in June, and by the time, you get to Alaska and Canada, you are talking about 2-4 hours or less in December and 20-22 or more in June. In the end, a simple equation appears and relates plant growth and internal signaling for flowering based upon day length such that our Compass plants mature and bloom after receiving a half of a year of the daylight budget; other plants mature and bloom when varied units of the budget are used giving us short-day bloomers and long-day bloomers. Thus the prairie phenology of flowering is tied not only to time but also to seasons, aka latitudes. Thus no 2 prairies are identical in the phenologies. And any other features in the prairie, from hillsides to shade from rocks, etc., can alter bloom times. And of course, any insult, burning or mowing, can highly change the bloom times by restarting clocks and sending new chemical signals throughout the plants.


vernonia texana lacon89

Vernonia texana (Texas ironweed) is an early blooming ironweed in the Cajun Prairie. It is smaller and less showy but similar to the late blooming Vernonia gigantea (Giant ironweed).



Spring and early summer sunflowers (Cirsium, many Coreopsis, Echinacea, Senecio, Krigia, many Rudbeckia, etc.) complete their blooming. July begins a fantastic season of sunflowers, the Asteraceae or Compositae.  Many new genera of sunflowers bloom, not only the typical sunflowers (Helianthus, ‘Aster,’ Silphium, Bidens, Rudbeckia, Chrysopsis, Pityopsis, Boltonia, Gaillardia, Coreopsis, etc.) but also the atypical sunflowers (Liatris, Vernonia, Conclinium, Arnoglossum (Cacalia), Eupatorium, Euthamia, Pluchea, Mikania, Solidago, Oligoneuron, etc.). For the next 5 months, these sunflowers rule the prairie floralscape.

By the middle of the month, Arnoglossum (Cacalia), Coreopsis tripteris (Tall tickseed), Rudbeckia subtomentosa (Sweet black-eyed susan) and Liatris begin blooming. Silphium laciniatum becomes the significant sunflower, but its shorter relative, Helianthus mollis (Ashy sunflower), begins to make a show. Silphium gracile continues to bloom—it blooms from April to November, and it will rebloom if mowed.

liatris squarrosa

Liatris squarrosa (Button blazing star).


July begins the season of blooming blazing stars—the Liatris. Liatris contains many species of truly elegant sunflower species that bloom in linear spikes from the apical tip down to mid-spike or lower over a few weeks. The species in the Cajun Prairie bloom from early July to early October. By far the most abundant species in the Cajun Prairie were L. spicata (Dense blazing star) in the southern prairies and L. pycnostachya (Prairie blazing star or Kansas gayfeather) in the western prairies. Dense blazing stars from the Midland remnant prairie photograph either blue or red depending on the lighting, and some are white as in the center of these two pictures.

Less common, Liatris acidota (Slender blazing star) and L. squarrosa (Button blazing star) start blooming during the early part of the month and continue to bloom until late September. These bloom for a much longer period than the other species. Dense blazing star blooms mostly in July and August, whereas Prairie blazing star blooms from late August to early October, and L. elegans (Pinkscale blazing star) blooms from late September into October.

Overlap in their blooms is evident, and hybrids of Liatris may exist, but that is far beyond our focus. Occasional albino (white) flowering plants are found in the Cajun Prairie. The flowers of all the species are generally pink to purple, but they may appear blue or red on photographic film at different times of the day. My eyes were often forced to take a double take to confirm the color. These plants are also a major group in the florist palette and are commonly found in arrangements. They dry beautifully when stored upside-down. The plants are easily started from seed, but they like disturbed soils for that first start. They live for decades, and they can be really impressive in numbers and size. There are approximately 50,000 plants, mostly Liatris pycnostachya, in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice. For 3 months, from mid-July to mid-October, you are sure to see at least one species in bloom—which one(s) will tell you not only which month you are in but also maybe which week. Charles Allen once hailed these blazing stars as the most common wildflowers in Louisiana. I remain totally impressed by them.


aug 87 fenton

Mid-July 1987, Midland prairie remnant contains lots of Rattlesnake master and Ovateleaf Indian plantain.



Rattlesnake master (white) with Partridge pea (Chaemescrista fasciculata).


Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake master or Button snakeroot or Button eryngyo) blooms in dry prairie, and Hydrolea ovata (Blue waterleaf) blooms in wet prairie. Rattlesnake master, a member of the carrot family, attracts pollinators by the hundreds of species and spreads as the prairie soils mature. Its prickly clusters of white flowers are unmistakable as is its yucca-like rosette of leaves. This plant is a great indicator of prairies. Blue waterleaf is a striking blue beauty (sometimes light blue or white) with bonafide stickers—it spreads well in wet areas and will literally put on a great show of color.


Blue waterleaf.


Tall tickseeds and Sweet black-eyed susans represent 2 groups of sunflowers that were very common in Spring. Just when it appears that we have lost all blooms of the tickseeds and black-eyed susans (only stragglers remain unless someone has mowed or burned), these 2 late bloomers surprise us with an explosion of blooms. Whereas Tall tickseeds reach 8 or more feet in height, the Sweet black-eyed susans are roughly 4-5 feet tall. Both put on a tremendous show. Both are easily propagated from stem cuttings.



Ovateleaf Indian plantain.



jul88 wkindersav

Asclepias lanceolata (Fewflower milkweed) surrounded by Ovateleaf Indian plantain in remnant prairie.



Arnoglossum (Cacalia) ovatum (Ovateleaf Indian plantain) can form large clusters of white flowers. In the remnant prairies south of Interstate 10, it often was companioned by Dense blazingstar, where they formed fields of white and blue-purple blooms at the end of month.




Passiflora incarnata (Passionvine), the host for Gulf fritillary butterflies, is blooming its famous ‘Crucifixion flowers’ with their elegant frills and details, which open late in the afternoon. Some years, caterpillars are abundant and literally eat all of the leaves. The fruit are tasty when ripe, and seeds planted with the tasty pulp germinate within days of planting. This plant really likes compost, where it will grow with a vengeance and provide the backbone for a prairie garden of butterflies. The Gulf fritillary was the most common butterfly in my butterfly surveys of the Cajun Prairie—probably because the Passionvine was spread by birds and commonly found its way into available roadsides and pastures and any abandoned field with suitable soil—suitable soil is becoming rare as is this plant in some areas.

As July ends, the big grasses begin reaching for the sky. In prairies with lots of the big grasses, Big bluestem, Switchgrass, etc., the grasses will begin to overwhelm our view—this is certainly true in the Cajun Prairie Gardens. Whereas in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice, the emphasis is on Little bluestem and shorter grasses, and thus it has a greater meadow quality with many more obvious blooming forbs. Gardens vary greatly based upon not only the grasses but also the forbs that they contain. Native prairie was a grand mix of all these features, and it spread over millions of acres.


aug 91 west midland

By month’s end, Midland prairie remnants were full of sunflowers, Ovateleaf Indian plantain (white) and Dense blazing star (pink)


What was blooming in the Cajun Prairie Gardens on July 1, 2015?

  1. *Silphium laciniatum
  2. Silphium gracile
  3. Asclepias tuberosa
  4. Asclepias perennis
  5. Asclepias lanceolata
  6. Gaura lindheimeri
  7. Callirhoe papaver
  8. Asclepias viridis
  9. Rudbeckia hirta
  10. Rudbeckia grandiflora
  11. Coreopsis tinctoria
  12. Mimosa hystricina
  13. Crinum americanum
  14. Ludwigia sp.
  15. Ruellia spp.
  16. Euphorbia corallata
  17. Conoclinium coelestinum
  18. Tephrosia onobrychoides
  19. Monarda fistulosa
  20. Monarda lindheimeri
  21. Rudbeckia hirta
  22. Rudbeckia grandifolia
  23. Asclepias verticillata
  24. Sabatia spp.
  25. Hypericum spp.
  26. Thalea dealbata
  27. Eryngium yuccifolium
  28. Physostegia digitalis
  29. Hibiscus moscheutos lasiocarpus
  30. Kosteletskia virginica
  31. Hibiscus coccinea
  32. Ipomoea sagittata
  33. Chamescrista fasciculata
  34. *Passiflora incarnata
  35. Canna spp.
  36. *Coreopsis tripteris
  37. *Helianthus mollis
  38. *Liatris acidota
  39. *Manfreda virginica
  40. *Salvia azurea
  41. *Hydrolea ovata
  42. Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
  43. Pycnanthemum muticum
  44. Rhexia mariana
  45. Lythrum lineare
  46. Cephalanthus occidentalis
  47. Galactea volubilis
  48. Gaillardia aestivalis
  49. Lippia sp.   

*first blooms apparent

Posted by M. F. Vidrine 021016 (


Hibiscus pic

Hibiscus moscheutos var. lasiocarpos (Crimson-eyed rosemallow) in the wet Cajun Prairie Gardens.


2jul 2013

Physostegia digitalis (Finger false dragonhead or Obedient plants) at the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice.


jun 81 jeff davis roadside

Finger false-dragonhead along a roadside.

June is a 4 to 5 foot tall prairie with some areas reaching 6 feet. June begins as an extension of the May blooms, and it takes a week or so to take on its own personality. Hibiscus explodes in the wet prairie. Extraordinary blooms of 5-6 inches and varying from red to white. Two species, Texas star (Hibiscus coccinea) and our common species, Crimson-eyed rosemallows (Hibiscus moscheutos lasiocarpus), occur in the prairie ecosystem. Kosteletskya virginiana (Seashore mallow) blooms in mid-June and sporadically until September—it is a marsh plant and uncommon in prairie wet areas; however, it is a great garden plant. Texas star and Seashore mallow in my garden are from a backwater of the Calcasieu River near Westlake, LA, where Avery Williams guided me to a beautiful marshy area, where not only these flourished but also a huge population of Physostegia intermedia—the Spring-bloomer. Physostegia digitalis blooms in the dry prairie and creates a beautiful show in June and early July.

Mid-month is the beginning of the blooming of Physostegia digitalis (Finger false dragonhead or Obedient plant). This extraordinary bloomer is unmistakable. As the most common of the summer-blooming Obedient plants (there are 3 others that bloom in the summer), an estimated 5000 plants bloom in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice, with maximum bloom around the 1st of July. Nearly a hundred plants are found in the Cajun Prairie Gardens. This particular Obedient plant prefers drier areas, while others prefer wetter sites.

The Hibiscus and Physostegia make such a great show in June that it is worthwhile to examine more closely their blooming regimen in a table. Both maximize their bloom at the end of June and the beginning of July, marking mid-year in the garden.

Table 1. Blooming of Hibiscus moscheutos lasiocarpus (in the wet prairie) and Physostegia digitalis (in the dry prairie) for the year 2015 in the Cajun Prairie Gardens as a percent head count of number of plants flower on a particular day. There are about 500 Hibiscus and 100 Physostegia in the gardens. Note that sporadic blooms occur on plants during the rest of July, with some Hibiscus reblooming in September (especially if cut back after blooming).

Day (2015) Hibiscus Physostegia
7-Jun 2% 0%
9-Jun 5 0
11-Jun 20 2
16-Jun 50 10
18-Jun 75 20
21-Jun 95 50
25-Jun 100 70
30-Jun 70 90
1-Jul 60 60
6-Jul 20 30
8-Jul 10 20
15-Jul 5 5

Ipomoea sagittata (Saltmarsh morning-glory).

The wet marsh also is home to Ipomoea sagittata (Saltmarsh morning-glory) with violet flowers and Ludwigia spp. with bright yellow flowers, both spreading vigorously and vining among the Hibiscus. These plants will bloom until September.


Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Narrowleaf mountainmint) in the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



Pycnanthemum muticum (White-clustered mountainmint).

The mints, Pycnanthemum muticum and P. tenuifolium (Mountain mints) companion the last of the blooming Monarda lindheimeri and M. fistulosa (Bee balms) to add to the blooms of the Physostegia. The mints generally prefer drier prairie sites, but they are not as picky as the later blooming species, P. albescens and M. punctata. All of these mints smell great and taste good or they taste like medicine. Crushing leaves and smelling them is a gret past-time, but during June, the blooms add significant white to the color spectrum in the dry prairie. The later blooming species are more yellow in color and make themselves noticeable in August.

jun 2013

Monarda spp. (Bee balms) and Rudbeckia grandiflora (Rough coneflower) in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice.

The peas, Tephrosia (Hoarypeas) and Chamaescrista (aka Cassia) (Partridge peas), bloom massively. Black-eyed susans, Rudbeckia hirta and R. grandifolia, maximize their blooms. Gaura lindheimeri (Lindheimer’s beebalm) reaches max bloom, but continues to bloom into the autumn. These all inhabit the drier areas.


Crinum americanum (American swamp lily).

Crinum americanum (American swamp lily) and Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush) bloom. Other plants that like wet areas, including Thalea dealbata (Powdery thalia) and Canna spp., also bloom. The vining Saltmarsh morning-glory (Ipomoea sagittata) springles purple blooms among the Hibiscus.



Groups of Silphium gracile (Slender rosinweed) dot the prairie gardens.

Silphium gracile (Rosinweed) provides maximum bloom, while S. laciniatum (Compass plant) begins to shoot up to 6-8 feet and readies to begin blooming near the end of the month.


Plantanthera nivea.

Mid-June is the onset of bloom for Platanthera nivea (Snowy orchid). Whereas this orchid blooms profusely in savannahs of western Louisiana, it is rare in the Cajun Prairie. I found and photographed a single specimen in bloom just north of the intersection of Hwy 165 and Interstate 10 along a Jefferson Davis Parish railroad right-of-way remnant prairie seepage area. Like many of the orchids, one walks right over them all year long as they typically have grass-like leaves that blend into the maze of grasses. Only when the blooms appear are the plants obvious, and in this case a really obvious bright white spire of blooms.


Coreopsis tripteris (Tall tickseed) shoots to 6 going on 7 feet.

Coreopsis tripteris, a true giant tickseed, reaches 6-8 feet in height and readies for blooming. Asclepias lanceolata (the prairie’s red milkweed that loves wetter areas) and other milkweeds continue blooming. Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake master) prepares for a magnificent show in July.


jun87 fenton

A view of the South Fenton remnant prairie in June of 1988. The large circles of grasses in the background are mostly Big Bluestem, while the foreground is dotted with blooms of Rough coneflower.



The bright pink Crimson-eyed rosemallow is called Cajun Prairie Twilight by Marc Pastorek.


What was blooming in the Cajun Prairie Gardens on June 1, 2015?

  • Tradescantia spp.
  • Scutellaria integrifolia
  • Silphium gracile
  • Asclepias tuberosa
  • Asclepias perennis
  • Asclepias lanceolata
  • Gaura lindheimeri
  • Callirhoe papaver
  • Orbexilum psoralioides
  • Asclepias viridis
  • Phlox pilosa
  • Allium canadense
  • Echinacea pallida
  • Rudbeckia hirta
  • Coreopsis tinctoria
  • Mimosa hystricina
  • Crinum americanum
  • Ludwigia sp.
  • Ruellia spp.
  • Euphorbia corallata
  • Conoclinium coelestinum
  • Tephrosia onabrychoides
  • Monarda fistulosa
  • Monarda lindheimeri
  • Rudbeckia texana
  • Rudbeckia grandifolia
  • Asclepias verticillata
  • Spiranthes spp.
  • Sabatia spp.
  • Hypericum spp.
  • Thalea dealbata
  • *Hibiscus moscheutos lasiocarpus
  • Ipomoea sagittata
  • Canna spp.
  • Rhexia mariana
  • Lythrum lineare
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis
  • Galactea volubilis
  • Erythrina herbacea
  • Gaillardia aestivalis
  • Helenium spp.
  • Verbena halei
  • Lippia sp.

*first blooms apparent.


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Callirhoe papaver (Winecup).




Mimosa hystricini (Sensitive briar)


may91 welsh

Rudbeckia texana (Texas brown-eyed susan) in the Welsh remnant Prairie in 1990.


May is a transitional month in the prairie, but it is a great month for sunflowers and milkweeds and many other species. The last of the Louisiana irises bloom—the short and zig-zag stemmed Iris brevicaulis. May presents a 3 feet tall prairie in general and reaching 4-5 in select species. Some meadow scenes are roughly 2 feet in height and provide some of the most striking view—such a section should be provided in any prairie garden not only for the sake of your eyes and emotions but also in order to provide a habitat that many of these shorter plants can be maintained—this area can be mowed after the major blooming (mid-June to early-July) and a reasonable amount of re-blooming may result in a second splash.

May also provides many views from the recent April blooms and some from the upcoming June explosion of blooms—this is why I call it a transitional month. At first view, May appears to have far fewer blooming plants, but this is a result of the loss of large, spectacular bloomers followed by their replacement with many small bloomers including Phlox, Callirhoe, Echinacea, etc. Taller plants from the April blooms often hide the smaller bloomers from view and reduce the overall effect. Thus growing a meadow without the large Baptisia and other plants of April will provide for a view of these beautiful prairie gems.

Creating a meadow is one of the best ways to get into the prairie. Here is an excellent example of a May meadow using 20 species of prairie plants in an area that can be mowed in mid-June with some good rebloom, and maybe another mow in mid-August for another small rebloom. The list contains showy flowering plants that are generally easy to grow after seeding or transplanting; however, they are not commonly regarded as hosts for butterfly larvae and serve mainly as nectar plants for pollinators. The exception is the milkweeds, but Monarch larvae are usually absent from our area in June, July and August, when mowing is suggested—a patient search might be useful just in case there is a straggler!


may90 fenton prairie

A view of a meadow remnant prairie south of Fenton in May 1990. Clumps of Rudbeckia hirta (yellow midground = Black-eyed susans), Callirhoe papaver (red foreground = Winecups), Mimosa hystricini (pink background = Sensitive briar) and Echinacea pallida (pink background = Pale purple coneflowers) are apparent.


A list of 20 dry feet meadow choices to make a May ‘knock your eyes out view’ follows:

  1. Phlox pilosa
  2. Callirhoe papaver
  3. Schrankia (now Mimosa hystricina)
  4. Echinacea pallida
  5. Erythrina herbacea
  6. Silphium gracile
  7. Rudbeckia hirta, grandiflora and texana
  8. Gaura lindheimeri
  9. Monarda fistulosa and lindheimeri
  10. Tephrosia onybrachiodes
  11. Butterflyweed and other milkweeds
  12. Ruellia spp.
  13. Prunella vulgaris
  14. Erigeron strigosus and annuus
  15. Tradescantia spp.
  16. Conoclinium coelestinum
  17. Gaillardia aestivalis
  18. Stachys floridana (considered too aggressive by Charles Allen and others)
  19. Euphorbia corallata
  20. Penstamon digitalis


Phlox, Callirhoe, Mimosa and Echinacea collected together make a great show. Add black-eyed susans and beebalms, and the view is as gardenesque/meadowesque as it gets. Add Mamou and Butterflyweed and you have a knock-your-eyes-out view. Unfortunately Coreopsis and many Tradescantia are generally finishing. A few Coreopsis tinctoria may bloom, but these annuals tend to disappear. Silphium gracile, although a bit taller but airy, can make a great contribution to the view. Tephrosia onybrychoides (Multibloom hoarypea) and Gaura lindheimeri (Lindheimer’s beeblossum) also bloom profusely. Cassia and Passiflora may be added as they are wonderful butterfly host plants—but cutting these down at midseason would be detrimental to the varied sulphur butterfly caterpillars and Gulf Fritillary caterpillars feasting on them.

Adding Lantana to this garden would also provide addition bang for your bucks. Arguments regarding whether the various kinds are native or exotic have not been settled. They do not appear to be common in the wild, but they are here and there. They were not found on the prairie remnants, but I have seen them in roadside areas along with natives; thus they are naturalized exotics at worst and possibly natives at best. I grow them with stem cutting taken in winter and simply inserted into the soil—I am always surprised to see them take root and grow.

Prunella vulgaris (Heal-all) and Scutellaria integrifolia (Helmet flower or skullcap) may be excellent additions. They are striking and blue to purple flowering, low growing plants. They are absolutely beautiful and rival the bluebonnets of Texas in both color and length of bloom season, but I have never seen them in nearly the numbers evidenced by the countless pictures of bluebonnets. They bloom briefly between in April to May.

Chamescrista fasciculata (aka Cassia and known as Partridge Pea) and Tephrosia are peas with characteristic blooms, but Chamescrista is an annual with bright yellow flowers, and Tephrosia is a perennial with white flowers that turn pink and then red during the 3 days that each bloom survives. These can become abundant and persist; Cassia is able to persist in the garden for years—not a common feat for annuals in the prairie—a habitat where perennials tend to crowd out the annuals. These will bloom for the next 5 months, if they have an opportunity in their location.


Spiranthes sp. (Ladies tresses or Corkscrew orchid)


Spiranthes blooms. Orchids always receive attention—not only the most varied group of flowering plants in the world but also the most striking. The orchids occur in most kinds of habitats and achieve an intimate relationship with specific insects and fungi. Ladies tresses are among the most weedy of the orchids, but I would not want them thought of as weeds—they are native and highly sought after by pollinators. They are striking in their morphology and never cease to tease you into thinking there must be a dozen kinds as the number of twists and turns in the spiral orchids are bedeviling. Transplanting any of the orchids is literally an attempt to achieve a sense of deep depression and event-driven loss of common sense.

Sunflowers, including many coneflowers, black-eyed susans, rosinweeds, coreopsis, krigia dandelions, fleabanes and more, are blooming.

The mints, Monarda (beebalms) and Pycnanthemum (mountain mints), make a great show in May. They are very aromatic and tasty—a pleasure to other senses in the midst of all this visual beauty. The flowers are white to pink—2 species of each genus bloom in May(M. lindheimeri and M. fistulosa and P. muticum and P. tenuifolium), but another species in each genus will bloom in August and September. The latter blooms of August are P. albescens and M. punctata. The smells vary from camphor-like to peppermint to spearmint and other minty smells companioned with tastes. These plants contain essential oils that are toxic to many bacteria, and as such are considered medicinal plants. While some remind me of medicine, others have very pleasant smells and tastes. Other tasty plants include the Sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora) with a distinctively licorice taste and smell—it blooms in August.

The milkweeds are my joy in May—they bloom as though there is no tomorrow. An essay on milkweeds was blogged earlier.

may 90 north kinder helenium

A wet marsh south of Kinder with Helenium drummondii (Fringed sneezeweed) in the 1980s.


Helenium drummondii (Fringed sneezeweed) blooms in profusion in wet areas in the remnant prairie, but it has never been well-established in our gardens. Other plants that enjoy wet prairie include Physostegia intermedia and Pontedaria cordata—both remain in the garden, but they are not flourishing. Lots of other plants, including the candyroots and several carnivorous plants, are common in the prairies, but have not established in the gardens.

By the end of May, few pollinators remain. The causes may be many, but I suspect that the overhead activity of cropdusting airplanes and their drifting insecticides and herbicides are among the major causes for this drastic decline. As a result, few seeds are produced—most notable to me when examining the milkweeds. By summer’s end, the pollinators have returned.

May includes Mother’s Day, with the peak bloom of daylilies and gladiolas in the conventional southern garden. In the Cajun Prairie Gardens, I have used daylilies (Hemerocallis) as accent plants in some of these meadows—exotic plants are not generally recommended. Daylilies bloom from April to July in the Cajun Prairie Gardens. Unlike the Midwest, where daylilies have become somewhat weedy and escaped, in Louisiana, these plants appear to not be an escapee problem. Because the plants are beautiful, edible and highly useful to the gardener, I choose to use these plants. The plants respond well to mowing in summer and burning in winter. Their varieties are nearly inexhaustible, both in form and color. Also on the non-prairie view, May provides an explosion of zinnias and cosmos for my and my butterfly’s pleasures—these pleasures extend into September and further if weather permits.


Erythrina herbacea (Mamou).


The native herb Mamou in all of its glorious bloom. This hummingbird-pollinated, medicinal plant has a root system like a tree and is more commonly found in the edges of the gallery forests and prairie, but it is a great grower in the Cajun Prairie Gardens. The plant is celebrated in a book by Bill Reese and Charles Allen. The chemical in its seed and roots is a blood thinner, which my Mom used in a syrup to act as an expectorant and phlegm-buster–now considered too dangerous to use. Photo requested by Terry Erwin.



The month ends with the first blooms of Hibiscus moscheutos var. lasiocarpos (Crimsoneyed rose-mallow)—a plant that takes over the view in the Louisiana Iris marsh during June and July. Ipomoea sagittata (Salt marsh morning-glory)—a beautiful blue-purple-flowered vine grows among the Hibiscus. Masses of Ludwigia spp. (Water primroses) grow and bloom bright yellow open blooms beneath the Hibiscus and the morning-glories.

Hibiscus pic

A preview of the marsh in the Cajun Prairie Gardens in June. More than a thousand Hibiscus bloom. The yellow flowers in the foreground are Ludwigia sp.


What was blooming in the Cajun Prairie Gardens on May 1, 2015?

  1. Tradescantia spp.
  2. Scutellaria integrifolia
  3. Silphium gracile
  4. *Iris brevicaulis. (Louisiana Iris)
  5. *Asclepias tuberosa
  6. *Asclepias perennis
  7. *Asclepias lanceolata
  8. Gaura lindheimeri
  9. Callirhoe papaver
  10. Baptisia alba
  11. Orbexilum psoraliodes
  12. Orbexilum simplex
  13. Baptisia sphaerocarpa
  14. Physostegia intermedia
  15. Asclepias viridis
  16. *Phlox pilosa
  17. *Allium mobilense
  18. *Allium canadense
  19. *Erythrina herbacea
  20. Stachys floridana
  21. Sisyrinchium (red flowers)
  22. *Echinacea pallida
  23. *Rudbeckia hirta
  24. *Prunella vulgaris
  25. *Cicuta maculata
  26. Coreopsis lanceolata
  27. *Mimosa hystricina
  28. *Crinum americanum
  29. *Ludwigia sp.
  30. *Ruellia spp.
  31. Oenothera speciosa
  32. Polytaenia nuttallii
  33. Lobelia appendiculata
  34. Euphorbia corallata
  35. Buchnera floridana
  36. Erigeron strigosus
  37. Erigeron annuus
  38. Herbertia lahue
  39. Penstamon spp.
  40. Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
  41. Pycnanthemum muticum

*first bloom apparent. WOW! Great video. Thanks to Larry Allain for passing it along to me!

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