Texas Native Plant Week History
By Cindy Stone, Chair, Texas Native Plant Week Committee
This is the original speech presented by Faye Tessnow on March 24, 2009 to the representative committee for a declaration of Native Plant Day to be on October 15th of each year. The staff of State Representative Donna Howard encouraged her to designate a week instead of one day. After discussion with the Native Plant Society of Texas state committee in Fredericksburg and the Highland Lakes Chapter, it was decided to have a full week designated. Texas Native Plant Week declaration became HB 1739. On April 30, 2009, House Representative Joe Straus signed HB 1739, and it moved forward to the State Senate. The secretary of the Senate signed HB 1739 on May 26, 2009. Both houses passed HB 1739 with a unanimous vote. On June 19, 2009, Governor Perry would sign HB 1739 into law with the bill taking effect on September 1, 2009.
Her vision, shared by Barbara Anderson, emphasized the role of native plants in conservation efforts and their use as incentive for the Texas education system to teach school children about the importance of native plants. And through their efforts, the day became a week. Texas Native Plant Week will be promoted the third week of October. On behalf of Native Plant Society of Texas, we thank you Faye and Barbara.
We of the Highland Lakes Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas wish to declare October 15 as Native Plant Day.
“We believe that native plants are valuable. Native plants are essential to the maintenance of a healthy ecosystem. This is to maintain life among different species from the birds and small creatures to mammals and other animals. Native plants are the food source for the pollinators, which are so important to perpetuate the existence for all. Birds spread the seed and pollinate flowers as they fly from plant to plant and on their ways north and south across our state.
Plants not only are a food source, they are home for creatures. From the tallest of trees to the lowest grasses, are nesting places. They are also resting places for the birds and butterflies during heavy rains and thunderstorms. Some native plants are host plants that are vital in the early development of butterflies. Examples: Milkweeds are host plants for the Monarch butterflies. Mexican Plum Tree is host for the Tiger Swallowtail; Passion Flowers are hosts for Gulf Fritillary and also Zebra Longwing. Common Wood Nymph need grasses and the water willows. The Snout Butterfly need Hackberries.
Native plants are essential for insect biodiversity. Forests remain healthy because the insects hold each other in check. An insect may eat the leaves of one plant, but not all. The surrounding plants and trees keep each other in check and balance. An experiment was done in South Texas on a ranch. One plot was planted with native grasses and forbs. The other plot was planted with alien species of grasses and low growing plants. It was noted that the state bird, the Mockingbird, went to the native plants for food in a ration of 3:1 over the non native species plot. They preferred the insects that were on the native plants because of the health of the insects. Douglas W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home on how native plants sustain wildlife noted this in his book. This has to do with leaf chemistry and the adaptation of insects to the plants.
Native plants are economical. They can easily be in a xeriscape landscape because they need so little water. When we plant native plants, care is taken to water some, sparingly, during the first six months; after that, only in extreme dry conditions. Native plants should be used more in lawns, because mowing is expensive. Every time we use the lawnmower it is a waste. Soil is healthier, too, when the organic matter is allowed to remain instead of being raked or swept away.
Why do we choose October 15 as Native Plant Day?
We want community involvement. We want to promote conservation, whether at home, or in the schoolroom. We want to educate people on the value of native plants. They are essential to our physical and mental health. We need to restore a vital habitat”.
Photograph by Bill Hopkins