Archive for the 'Botany' Category

TPW TV – Up on the (Green) Roof

Friday, November 16th, 2018
Austin Central Library rooftop garden.

Austin Central Library rooftop garden.

This is Passport to Texas

The new public library in Austin is an oasis in the midst of a steel and concrete desert.

[opens w/ambience] This is the, uh, rooftop garden, which we also call the butterfly garden.

John Gillum is library facilities manager. Native plants sway in the breeze six stories above busy thoroughfares.

It is a green roof. It means a roof that’s actually landscaped. We wanted to do something to help out our little pollinators. We will do anything we can to attract them. If we can come up with different plants we think will draw more butterflies, we’ll do it.

An oasis of native plants help bees and butterflies make their way through increasingly urban landscapes. It also makes for a nice spot to sit and read.

This is really the best part of the library as far as a natural setting to sit in.

Putting a park on a building saves space and lowers energy costs when temperatures soar.

As opposed to the concrete around us, this is going to be an area that really absorbs heat rather than reflects it out, so even in the kind of summers that we get here in Austin, this is still going to be a pretty pleasant place to be.

Can’t get to the library? Then get to a television. Explore the Austin Central Library rooftop garden on the Texas Parks and Wildlife TV series on PBS, the week of November 25th.

In an age when news about nature is not always cheery, look for some good news on the top shelf of Austin’s new library.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

The Rule of Trees

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Tree planting photo by woodleywonderworks via Flickr, Creative Commons

This is Passport to Texas

Trees are habitat for wildlife. And if you’re adding new trees to your landscape, you need to know the rules.

People frequently ask how close they can put a tree to the house, because shade on the house obviously is a huge energy savings. The general rule of thumb is you go no closer to the house than the eaves are high. So, if you measure up to the eaves of your house, and it’s ten feet high, then you need to get ten feet back from the house.

Scott Harris, a certified arborist in Austin, recommends planting only native specimens.

You always want to plant your trees at the exact level they were in the pot. Don’t dig a big deep hole, dig a big wide hole. Always use the same soil you took out to backfill. But, you can put your compost underneath the mulch, and then all of that organic goodness will dribble down in the way that nature intended.

By watering infrequently and deeply, we can help new trees develop extensive root systems.

If you just have a little bit of water in one area, that’s where the roots are going to go. But if you water very deeply, it’ll spread into the surrounding soil, and the roots will follow that moisture out.

Strong root systems help trees remain strong and withstand drought.

That’s our show…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Tree Planting Time in Texas

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Scott Harris, when he also farmed flowers. Image from his Facebook page.

This is Passport to Texas

Now is an ideal time to plant trees throughout most of Texas…and you might wonder why.

Two reasons: the two most important constituents in tree planting—the people planting the trees and the trees. It’s just much easier on them.

Scott Harris is a certified arborist in Austin. Tree planting season in Texas begins in October and continues through March.

Getting the trees in the ground in the fall [and winter], they have the entire cool season, dormant season, to spread roots out before the big demands on roots and water start in the spring.

Just because a tree will grow in Texas, doesn’t mean it’s good for Texas. Harris advises that we exercise caution about what we plant in our yards.

The biggest thing to avoid is non-natives. Our natives have all of the features you would want, but they’ve spent thousands and thousands of years getting used to being here, and with all of the wildlife used to having them, too. It’s all a web, and you can’t tell which string you can pull out without upsetting things.

Tomorrow we’ll have a few tree planting tips to help you and your newly planted tree enjoy a long and happy life together

Our show receives support from RAM Trucks: Built to serve.

That’s our show…For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Landscaping for Wildlife

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Wildscapes are beautiful and beneficial.

This is Passport to Texas

Whether you have an apartment balcony or large backyard, you can take simple steps to help improve habitat for wildlife. It’s called “wildscaping.” Texas Parks and Wildlife provides online resources to help Texans begin landscaping their property for wildlife. And, really, you can start small. As small as a pot of native flowering plants.

The information can guide you with things like creating a humming-bird or butterfly garden; you can also find recommended plant lists for your part of the state.

Even a small patch of butterfly attracting flowers is a great way to start. Speaking from experience… there is nothing more magical than rolling up your driveway after work to see your garden alive with butterflies. Makes me smile every single time.

Essentially, what you’ll want to do is to provide food, water and shelter for the critters that come calling. And the more of this wildscape habitat that you provide, the more wildlife you’ll attract.

One of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s urban biologists, Kelly Simon, wrote an informative book on the subject, aptly titled: Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife.

Also check out the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for classes, tours and demonstrations featuring wildscapes.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Why and How Leaves Change Color in Fall

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Colorful fall foliage at Garner State Park.

This is Passport to Texas

Why is the sky blue? Why do birds sing? Why do leaves turn color in fall? We’ve got you covered on fall foliage. It begins with longer nights…

…which is a signal that winter is coming. And, a consequence of that is the leaf is no longer making chlorophyll and other pigments start to show up. Some are already there, some are produced after the leaf stops making chlorophyll.

Damon Waitt is director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, formerly of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Another part of the “coloring” process is when leaves seal themselves off from the trees.

And it’s during that time that the leaves are changing color. Because one of the coolest colors, of course, is red and purple. You know, the Big Tooth Maple colors. That’s actually a pigment called anthocyanin, and it’s produced when that leaf is cut off from the rest of the plant. And the sugars that are still left in that leaf will actually convert to this pigment and turn red.

A chemical process (triggered by longer nights) causes leaves to change color. However, other variables affect the depth of color.

So, there are a lot of things that can affect how deep the reds are: temperature, sunlight…all these things have an effect on the expression of these different colors. And, that’s why each fall is different.

Now, go forth and amaze your friends with your newfound knowledge.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.