My talk at the upcoming meeting

On Saturday, the 24th of September, I have been asked to speak to the Coastal and Cajun Prairie folks in Lafayette. After looking at the schedule of speakers and noting that not everyone can attend every talk, I have decided to write my talk up–not something that I usually do–since I usually talk off the cuff. Thus I am attaching the talk and the powerpoint presentation for your perusal.


Jaime Gonzales and crew at the Coastal Prairie Partnership have placed video programs from the meeting @ –visit the site for an opportunity to view the great talks at the meeting.




The Cajun Prairie Scent Garden



Narrow-leaf mountain mint (white) with Finger false dragonhead (pink) in prairie remnant in the 1980s.



A scent garden is in this case also a medicinal garden, as most of these plants are also medicinal herbs. These prairie plants are found in the coastal prairie. Most of these plants are native to the Cajun Prairie. Along with a scent, these plants all have a taste that is noteworthy, but I don’t usually go around the garden tasting plants nor do I recommend it—there are some that are poisonous or at minimum taste really bad—unless I have had an opportunity to make sure that they are not poisonous.

jun89 swords

Wild bergamont (whitish pink) with Butterflyweed (orange) in remnant prairie along U. S. 190 at Swords–one of 3 locations in the Cajun Prairie where Butterflyweeds were located in the late 1980s.



Unlike a scent garden where flowers present perfumes and odors that may be especially fragrant and pleasurable, these plants have parts of the plants other than the flowers that have the scent that may or may not be pleasant depending in part on your genetics.



Two views of Wild bergamont in the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



Dr. Jameel Al-dujaili and his students spent a number of years doing antimicrobial studies with these scented plants. Essential oils are responsible for the scent and apparently for the antibiotic activity. After isolating the oils, the oils were tested against some very famous bacteria, including Escherichia coli (a common pathogen in meat), Staphylococcus aureus (a common pathogen on our skin that includes several varieties, which are resistant to major antibiotics), and Listeria monocytogenes (a common pathogen in salads). These analyses demonstrated varying degrees of lethality in laboratory settings, and in many cases, more than 90% effectiveness. The Mountain mints’ essential oils resulted in greater than 99% kill more often than not. Gail and I routinely chew leaves of White-leaf mountain mint when we are suffering with a sore throat or a cold.



Spotted beebalm or Horsemint in the Cajun Prairie Gardens.



There are a number of Eurasian mints and scented plants (spearmint, peppermint, wintergreen, lemon mints, Society garlic and plants like basil, dill, oregano and a variety of onions and garlics) that are grown for food and scent. These could easily be companioned with our natives, but the gardener must define the garden.



In the foreground, Clustered mountain mint blooms with Winecups in the background.




Clustered mountain mint.


Each plant has a story.


  1. Nothoscordum bivalve (False garlic or Crowpoison)—this little onion grows wild in yards and can number in the thousands. It blooms from November to April, with an explosion in late February through March. It is edible. Bees and butterflies are routinely seen nectaring at its flowers. The scent is that of garlic, but onion-like in some cases. It has minimal use as an antibiotic, but it did kill some bacteria in our screenings. Essential oils are responsible for the scent and apparently for the antibiotic activity.
  2. Allium canadense var. mobilense (Wild onion)—this little onion persists in the prairie. It sports a number of pink-white flowers in a tight cluster at the tip of the stem. It has an onion-like scent. We did not test it as an antibiotic, but it would probably work much as False garlic. This is such a beautiful and relatively rare gem in our gardens that I do not attempt to disturb them.
  3. Allium canadense var. canadense (Wild onion)—this is a taller onion that creates rather thick groups of plants. The scent is strong and very oniony. It is extremely easy to grow and may become weedy. It is very edible and has some antibiotic potential.
  4. Pycnanthemum albescens (White-leaf mountain mint)—this mint reach 4 feet in height and blooms late in the blooming season (August-November). It readily adjusts to container culture, and it produces small clusters of purplish-white flowers. It comes in a variety of scents from camphor (very medicine-like) to a spearmint /wintergreen (very pleasant). Dr. Charles Allen usually comments on how this plant reminds him of his grandmother’s sausage—she used the mint to cure the sausage. This note intrigued Dr. Al-Dujaili, and he wanted to see whether the mint was use to deter the potential sour smell of old meat or whether it was used to kill E. coli, which would grow in this stored, cured meat. The answer was both to assuage any bad smell of the meat and to kill any bacteria trying to grow in the aged meat. This mint had the most effective results in the overall tests against E. coli, but it also worked very well against the other pathogens. Marc Pastorek has honored me by routinely referring to the camphor scented variety from our prairies and gallery forests as ‘Vidrine’s camphor’ and to the spearmint/wintergreen scented variety as ‘Malcolm’s mint.’
  5. Pycnanthemum muticum (Clustered mountain mint)—this mint blooms in first half of the growing season. The flowers are white and cluster at the top of plants—the leaves around the flowers turn white and give the entire top of the plant a white appearance—like snow on the surface. The scent is very strong and very much like a medicine. Dr. Bruno Borsari and I did an analysis of the rate of growth (really spreading from a center plug) among prairie plants, and this species spreads at the fastest rate in the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice. It grew within a decade to a circle some 20 feet in diameter—I suspect it might be a monster in the garden if given quality soil—somewhat reminiscent of another mint that the roots can be eaten as a raddish—Florida bethony or Florida hedgenettle (Stachys floridana). Both of these plants probably spread by rhizomes and cover a good distance underground annually. Clustered mountain mint was indeed a good antibiotic plant in our studies.
  6. Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Narrow-leaf mountain mint)—this mint also blooms in the first half of the blooming season. The flowers are very small and form numerous clusters on top of the plant. It often has a distinctive minty smell, but often I find plants that have little or no smell (hint: little or no essential oils). This plant tends to spread by seed. It grows in such a manner that it might be used as a hedge that you can see through. It also has significant antibiotic activity in our studies. Many plants in my garden appear to have no scent, while others have a very pleasant minty scent.
  7. Monarda fistulosa (Bergamont or Wild bergamont or Beebalm)–nonspotted flowers—this mint and the next are hard to tell apart. They bloom in the first half of the blooming season and may get as much as 4 feet tall. The flowers form large showy cluster—usually blue-purple to white. A northern relative (Monarda didyma) has red flowers and is a delightful plant to grow—it is used to make something called Oswego tea with an orange-like flavor/scent. Bergamont has a significant antibiotic nature. Its scent is a bit like medicine and quite strong.
  8. Monarda lindheimeri (Lindheimer’s beebalm)—spotted flowers—this is a plant that is very similar to Bergamont. Lindheimer’s beebalm has a significant antibiotic nature. Its scent is a bit like medicine and quite strong. Both of these Beebalms were common in the Cajun Prairie. They form very showy clumps in May into June—a must in the scented garden. My Dad once told me that he would put some of leaves of this mint in his shirt pocket when he went to the dance so he would smell good—he might have been referring to any fragrant mint that was pleasant—the leaves are green and scented all year long.
  9. Monarda punctata (Horsemint or Spotted beebalm)—this mint is a late bloomer with flowers appearing in August to November. The flowers are usually yellow, but the leaves near the flowers are often tinted purple. Similar to Lemon beebalm, the flower heads can be stacked on top of one another. The scent is very strong and very much like medicine. The plant stands out in the garden, but it does not appear to persist requiring some disturbance in order to remain in the garden.
  10. Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm)—this annual mint reappears for several years, but in my garden they have long disappeared. The flowers are purplish and resemble Horsemint. The scent is usually lemon or oregano. It has been used as a roadside flower—this gives you an idea as to how tough it is. It is not a resident of the Cajun Prairie in my experience, but it is known from Coastal prairies in Texas. I had some come up in compost that I got in the mid-90s from Lafayette. It is an annual, but a great plant to grow. It persists for a couple of years, but it does not hang around.
  11. Solidago odora (Sweet goldenrod)—this sunflower blooms in late September to November. It is easy to recognize as its leaves tend to flex downward. The flowers can be dried and used to make a goldenrod tea—it smells and tastes much like licorice. None of the other goldenrods are known for a scent or taste, except for their relatives, the Flat-top goldenrods. The antibiotic activity was low—less than 50% in most trials.
  12. Euthamia spp. (Flat-top goldenrods)—this sunflower has a licorice scent when crushed. It is an early succession group of plants in the Cajun Prairie, where it can be very common. I know of no use for the plant—just the light licorice scent and the pleasant clusters of yellow flowers. Goldenrods get a lot of grief for causing allergy outbreaks at year end, but they have colored petals on their flowers and are pollinated by insects. The real culprit is the Ragweeds—flowers without petals or sepals and inconspicuous—that use the wind to move their pollen to other plants and into our sinuses.


This scent garden will also serve as a butterfly and bee garden, as these plants are pollinated by our native pollinators. This dynamic garden provides an entirely different aspect to nature—one where smells/scents can be used to identify plants not only for their uniqueness but also for their potential as medicines.



Narrow-leaf mountain mint in the milkweed meadow at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.




White-leaf mountain mint.



Sweet goldenrod.



Lantana sp. (red) in the Cajun Prairie Gardens.


Other plants that may be selected for this garden include Lantana spp., Pluchea spp. and Eupatorium spp.


  1. Lantana spp. –many species are available in the nursery trade with a great variety of colors and growth forms. These are wonderful butterfly plants. The odor is somewhat medicinal. Whether they are native remains an unanswered question.
  2. Pluchea spp.—these sunflowers are sometimes called Camphorweeds. In the Cajun Prairie, 2 varieties (white and rose colored flowers) occurred. To me, the odor is somewhat pleasant, but one of the species, Pluchea foetida, is named for its horrible fetid odor. Charles Allen comments about this plant in his book, Louisiana Wildflower Guide, and notes that the plant may smell good to some and really bad to others. This reminds of tasting PTC (Phenylthiocarbamide) paper—a genetic test where some individuals have a dominant allele expressed that permits them to taste this mal-tasting chemical while others lack the allele expressed to taste the chemical at all.
  3. Eupatorium spp.—these sunflowers are not attractive, but they have distinctive scents. They are definitely weedy. Eupatorium capillifolium (Dogfennel) and E. compositifolium (Yankeeweed) have an interesting story that goes with them—from where I cannot recollect. According to this story, in the wake of the destruction caused by General William T. Sherman’s track to the Atlantic through Atlanta, these weeds appeared in great numbers. Thus the notion is that these weeds marked the trail of the Northern troops across Dixie as the name Yankeeweed signals. The coarse smelling scent incants some disdain among the remaining loyalists of the Confederacy.

In the garden, sometimes a plant is worth growing simply for the story that comes with it.

The prairie garden is discussed in this piece.

Why prairies matter and lawns don’t

Posted by M. F. Vidrine 030316 (



1988 seeding

Charles Allen leads a group of students in the planting of the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice in December 1988. Curtis Joubert, the Mayor of Eunice, and other dignitaries are present.




Two views of the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice 26 years after its creation.


The year ends in the prairie, but it now time to think about creating prairie.


Switchgrass in the Cajun Prairie Gardens. It looks dead and will burn with a flash, but its underground parts are alive and well and may extend as much as 10 feet into the earth.



The gardens enter the dead of winter.



With each passing week, the life juices of the plants move underground or into their seed. The aboveground stubble will disappear in moments under the flames of a cleansing fire.


The last blooms are appearing. But the prairie remains very much alive. Since more than 2/3s of the biomass of the plants in the prairie are underground and perennial, they will survive the winter and burst into growth in the spring. I like to describe the prairie as an upside down forest, since the massive parts of the plants are underground. The roots and stems that live underground host a myriad of associates, namely fungi, bacteria, protists and insects. Much of this underground biome is unknown and greatly underappreciated. Many species new to science are hidden among the roots of these plants. Recent research has shown that the soil contains a biotic community with a highly diverse chemistry that includes the precursors for many much needed drugs. The soil itself has an economic story as it is the matrix into which we plant seeds of our numerous cash crops that draw from its resources to produce food and other products. The soil provides us with our daily diet. Our lack of understanding of its role is one of our most important perils. Recreating prairie means recreating soil as it is the prairie plants and their associates that make the soil. Seeing bare ground for a few days after the winter burns reminds me of the importance of the soil–an ecosystem hidden all year long by the beauty of our wild gardens.


dec 88 south fenton seed collecting

High school students picking seed for the 1988 planting.



Mayor Curtis Joubert 1988 seeding

The Mayor, Curtis Joubert, hurls the first handful of seeds into the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice in December 1988.


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


  1. Nothoscordum bivalve
  2. Conoclinium coelestinum
  3. Salvia azurea
  4. Pycnanthemum albescens
  5. Agalinis spp.
  6. Symphyotrichum praealtum
  7. Baccharis halimifolia
  8. Pityopsis graminifolia

Powerpoint for Milkweeds and Monarchs

030216 Alexandria030216 Alexandria

Posted by M. F. Vidrine 022316 (




The remains of the year are evident, but few blooms are evident.



Rosinweed reblooms after mowing at the edge of the Cajun Prairie Gardens. Its nectar is taken up by a Gulf fritillary.



If you like big grasses and fall color, the show can be amazing. Switchgrass and Big bluestem here make a show.


The prairie now blooms its final blooms. By mid-month, the number of blooms in the Cajun Prairie Gardens is far less than a million a day, and in many views, nothing remains in flower. But the month opens looking much like October. With each passing day, one or more species goes out of bloom. In some areas that were mowed, the plants rebound and produce a few blooms.



A few of the ‘Asters’ including Symphyotricum patens (Late purple aster) continue to bloom.


The plants begin to draw the lasts of their nutrients either into their root systems or into their seeds.



Crowpoison blooms in the mowed lawn.


Nothoscordum bivalve (False garlic or Crowpoison) begins blooming and continues blooming throughout winter if it is warm enough. The winter of 2015-16 has had almost continuous blooming of Crowpoison.



View across the Iris-Hibiscus marsh at the Cajun Prairie Gardens. Dead heads of bloomers all around.


nov87 fenton

Fenton remnant prairie in October 1988. In the background a 30 foot diameter clump of Big bluestem is apparent. Switchgrass surrounds it, and in the foreground, Kansas gayfeathers are going to seed.

nov 87 iowamuhlenbergia

Muhleygrass in the North Iowa remnant prairie in November 1988. You can see the I-10 overpass in the background.

nov 87 iowa

Another view of the North Iowa remnant prairie. 



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

  1. *Nothoscordum bivalve
  2. Silphium laciniatum
  3. Silphium gracile
  4. Gaura lindheimeri
  5. Rudbeckia hirta
  6. Coreopsis tinctoria
  7. Ruellia spp.
  8. Euphorbia corallata
  9. Conoclinium coelestinum
  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 pycnostachya
  19. Liatris squarrosa
  20. Salvia azurea
  21. Hydrolea ovata
  22. Rhexia mariana
  23. Strophlostyles sp.
  24. Centrosema virginianum
  25. Rudbeckia subtomentosa
  26. Gaura longiflora
  27. Pycnanthemum albescens
  28. Vernonia gigantea
  29. Monarda punctata
  30. Physostegia virginiana var. praemorsa
  31. Eupatorium spp.
  32. Boltonia spp.
  33. Agalinis spp.
  34. Bidens aristosa
  35. Symphyotrichum praealtum
  36. Symphyotrichum dumosum
  37. Strophlostyles umbellata
  38. Euthamia spp.
  39. Pluchea spp.
  40. Aster spp.
  41. Symphyotrichum concolor
  42. Eurybia hemisphaerica
  43. Baccharis halimifolia
  44. Pitiopsis graminifolia
  45. Chrysopsis mariana

*first blooms appear

Posted by M. F. Vidrine 022316 (



Gail looks out over the October gardens. The small yellow at her feet are Grass-leaved golden asters, while the larger yellow flowers are short Swamp sunflowers. The background is filled with blooms of big grasses, Willow aster and a variety of goldenrods.



Pityopsis graminifolia (Grass-leaved golden aster).



Solidago odora (Sweet goldenrod) leans into a trail at the Cajun Prairie Gardens.


The prairie reaches its maximum height. In areas where Little bluestem predominates, the prairie is only 4 feet tall. In other areas, the grasses and forbs reach 9-10 feet. This is the month when the sunflower family makes its final push to maximize its views in the prairie.



The Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice is at the end of the blooming season of the Kansas gayfeather. Thousands of stems with developing seed heads are visible.


The last of the Liatris pycnostachya and L. elegans bloom as the month progresses. Most of the wildflowers are amid their last stand, and blooms become uncommon except for some of the big sunflowers and their relatives.



Swamp sunflowers are showy throughout the month of October.


Bidens aristosa (Beggar’s ticks) completes its bloom early in the month just as Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp sunflower), a perennial sunflower that has linear leaves and blooms. These early succession sunflowers predominate during the first 10 years of restoration, when they literally disappear. But for those 10 years, September and October are splendid with plants reaching upwards to 10 feet.



Eurybia hemisphaerica (Showy aster).



Symphyotrichum praealtum (Willow aster).


Symphyotrichum dumosum (Rice button aster).




Euthamia sp. (Flat-top goldenrod)



A mix of goldenrods including Solidago altissima (Common goldenrod).



Eupatorium sp. (Thoroughworts or Bonesets; white) in field of Swamp sunflowers.


Goldenrods and ‘Asters’ now make a grand show. Euthamia spp. are in splendid bloom as early succession sunflowers. The ‘Asters’ are now divided into several genera including Symphyotrichum and Eurybia. Other groups have also been divided, e. g., Chrysopsis and Pityopsis, Eupatorium and Conoclinium, and others.


Monarch nectaring on Willow aster.



The Monarchs make their return journey through the Cajun Prairie as they migrate to the Gulf coast and Mexico. They draw nectar from many of the sunflowers, especially ‘Asters’ and Swamp sunflower.



Giant plume grass.


Saccharum giganteum (aka Erianthus giganteus) (Giant plume grass) is found in wet areas of the Cajun Prairie Restoration Project in Eunice. It gets to at least 10 feet in height. In the morning, the spray of flowers (without petals or sepals) takes on a reddish color that is breath-taking. This native rivals the introduced Pampas grass in beauty and elegance.



White-flowered Blue sage.



Blue-flowered Blue sage.



Obedient plant (pink) with Willow aster.


Salvia azurea (Blue sage) blooms magnificently. The white flowered form is more common in the Cajun Prairie. Obedient plant also continues blooming. White-leaf mountain mint continues to bloom. Blue mist flower, Spotted bee balm and Grassleaf goldenaster bloom magnificently.

Views from the past:

oct87 fenton7

Charles Allen leads Phillip Bourgoeis and guest through an October remnant prairie in the 1980s. Solidago rugosa (Wrinkled-leaf goldenrod) predominates the view.


oct87 fenton prairies

Fenton prairie remnant in October 1988. The yellow flowers in the foreground are Chrysopsis mariana (Maryland golden asters). Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower), Gaillardia aestivalis (Indian blanket), and Sweet goldenrod are also visible in the view.



oct87 s woodlawn

A view of the Woodlawn prairie remnant in October 1988–it is now part of a 4-lane highway (U. S. 165).


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

  1. Silphium laciniatum
  2. Silphium gracile
  3. Gaura lindheimeri
  4. Rudbeckia hirta
  5. Coreopsis tinctoria
  6. Solidago spp.
  7. Ruellia spp.
  8. Euphorbia corallata
  9. Conoclinium coelestinum
  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 pycnostachya
  19. Liatris squarrosa
  20. Salvia azurea
  21. Hydrolea ovata
  22. Rhexia mariana
  23. Strophlostyles sp.
  24. Centrosema virginianum
  25. Rudbeckia subtomentosa
  26. Gaura longiflora
  27. Pycnanthemum albescens
  28. Vernonia gigantea
  29. Monarda punctata
  30. Physostegia virginiana var. praemorsa
  31. Eupatorium spp.
  32. Boltonia spp.
  33. Agalinis spp.
  34. Bidens aristosa
  35. Symphyotrichum praealtum
  36. Symphyotrichum dumosum
  37. Strophlostyles umbellata
  38. Euthamia spp.
  39. Pluchea spp.
  40. Aster spp.
  41. Symphyotrichum concolor
  42. Eurybia hemisphaerica
  43. *Baccharis halimifolia
  44. Pitiopsis graminifolia
  45. Chrysopsis mariana

*first blooms appear

Posted by M. F. Vidrine 022316 (




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 (