Faye Tessnow’s Speech

Celebrating Faye Tessnow and Texas Native Plant Week History

By Cindy Stone, Co-Chair Texas Native Plant Week 2014

This is the original speech presented by Fess Tessnow to the legislative committee for proclamation of Texas Native Plant Day on April 30, 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.

State Representative, Donna Howard encouraged their efforts. And through their efforts, the day became a week. On June 19, 2009, Governor Perry proclaimed the third week of October to become Texas Native Plant Week.

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 forbes.  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.  This was noted in a book by Douglas W. Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home:  How native plants sustain wildlife.  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 the value of native plants.  They are essential to our physical and mental health.  We need to restore a vital habitat.