Archive for the 'Botany' Category

Citizens Monitor Monarchs

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Why are monarch butterflies declining?

The current thought is that it is actually several different factors that are contributing to the decline that we’re seeing.

Ben Hutchins is TPW’s invertebrate biologist. Deforestation of their winter roosts in Mexico, cold winters, and prolonged drought along their migration path, has had negative effects.

And then, finally, what this project is addressing is this widespread decline in availability of milkweed plants. That’s due to a couple things: predominantly increased use of certain herbicides.

Texas Milkweeds and Monarchs is a citizen science project where folks keep an eye out for the state’s 37 different species of milkweeds –vital to the monarch’s lifecycle – and then then share observations on iNaturalist.org.

We have experts that are going to be looking at these observations and identifying those.

Hutchins says more than a thousand contributors have logged more than seven thousand observations of all 37 milkweed species. Texas Parks and Wildlife also has guide to Texas milkweeds to help you ID the plants.

It is available online, [with] pictures of all of the different species of milkweeds, distribution maps—to let you know if you’re in the right part of the state—and also some of the key characteristics.

Find it on the Nature Trackers page of the Texas Parks and Wildlifewebsite.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Managing for Monarchs

Monday, January 22nd, 2018
Monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico.

Monarchs at their overwintering site in Mexico.

This is Passport to Texas

Monarch butterflies, which are beautiful, are declining. Yet, they’re not especially good pollinators, or a significant food source for other critters. So, is being pretty reason enough to save them?

I think it’s important not to deemphasize how important this is. If you’re ever out on a Texas river in the fall, and you have hundreds or thousands of monarchs coming through – that’s a fabulous natural phenomenon.

You make a good point Ben Hutchins. Ben is Texas Parks and Wildlife’s invertebrate biologist. He says the insects have a practical value in Mexico where they overwinter.

Overwintering monarchs are a really important source of economic income as tourists come from around the world to see them.

Conserving monarchs also benefits other Texas species.

Monarch conservation, benefits a whole suite of other species. So, for example, if you’re managing a landscape to benefit monarchs, you’re also going to be benefitting many other pollinators. They also benefit a host of larger species. For example, if you’re managing habitat – keeping it open as a prairie or savannah – that’s going to be benefitting upland bird species like quail; so there’s really an economic incentive of for being conscious of monarchs when we’re managing landscapes.

Who knew, right? Tomorrow: a citizen science project to help monarchs.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Monarch Malaise

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017
Monarch on milkweed.

Monarch on milkweed.

This is Passport to Texas

Habitat loss along its migration route may be one reason the Monarch butterfly is in decline. While feeding on nectar, Monarchs pollinate wildflowers along their route, which benefits our ecosystem.

There are two primary ways that habitat supports pollinators.

Johnnie Smith oversees outreach and education at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

And one is, the adult pollinators oftentimes feed on nectar of flowers. So, flowering plants that are a food source for the pollinator is very important. But also, is the food source that the pollinator’s larvae rely on as they’re growing up and becoming an adult. And so, that is just as important as the flowering plants that support the adults.

For Monarchs, native milkweed is an important plant. By cultivating them in our yards, along with other nectar and larval plants, we can all play a part in their survival.

There is no effort that is too small to be counted worthy. And there’s no spot of land that is too small to contain pollinator habitat. So, we really want to empower everybody—tht they can make a difference. Right where you stand. Right where you live—you can crate pollinator habitat, and help turn around this negative trend with the monarchs.

Find native and adapted plants for pollinators on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

A Weed Walk on the Wild Side at WOB

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017
Park Interpreter at Barrington Living History Farm at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Park Interpreter at Barrington Living History Farm at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

This is Passport to Texas

Try as she might, Perry Foskey’s efforts to grow a vegetable garden in her East Texas backyard failed.

The weeds did really well. And I just got to looking around [and wondered]: why am I fighting this? And I started doing
some research on the weeds and [discovered] they were actually edible.

Foskey–who works at Washington-on-the Brazos–Barrington Living History Farm–proposed a program for the historic site on identifying edible wild plants.

I thought it would be an excellent accent for the farm, itself. And visitors have liked that program, and it’s been a great success.

Dr. Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen of Foraging Texas will facilitate two wild edible plant identification walks at the site on Saturday, November fourth.

Dr. Merriwether…he’s been foraging for a very, very long time. His parents even did it back in the depression; they subsidized their food source with foraging. He is one of the premier foragers in this area, and we’re so lucky to have him come out and teach these classes.

The plant ID walks with Merriwether are nine to noon, and one to four on November 4th. Interested? Give Perry Foskey a call.

And, we’ll be glad to put them on the list. We recommend the classes should be for 12 years of age and up. And the classes are absolutely free.

Find more information in the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

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

Foraging for Food in the Wild

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017
Merriwether, from his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ForagingTexas/

Mark “Merriwether” Vorderbruggen. Image is from his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ForagingTexas/

This is Passport to Texas

By day, Mark Vorderbruggen is a chemist who works in research and development in Houston. By night he is Merriwether – plant forager extraordinaire.

Foraging is how we used to get food before HEB or Krogers or agriculture.

Foraging involves finding and harvesting food from the wild plants around you. Merriwether teaches people how to identify edible plants via his website Foraging Texas, and during workshops.

The running joke for years [was] that my classes were 50% hippies and 50% survivalists. In both cases, they were people that had some concerns about their food sources. It spread out from that into people who are just looking for new experiences, new flavors – looking for new ways to impress their friends.

Before you head outdoors to forage your next snack…

First thing you have to keep in mind is in the state of Texas, it is illegal to take plant material from a piece of property without the property owner’s permission. I will tell you right now: state parks, city parks – you will never get permission there. They don’t want people ripping up the plants.

Yet, state parks, Like Washington-on-the-Brazos, invite Merriwether to facilitate edible plant identification walks.

He has two coming up November 4th, find details in the calendar section of the Texas Parks and Wildlife website or on tomorrow’s show.

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