By Cindy Stone, 2013 Chair for Texas Native Plant Week

The history of Texas Native Plant Week begins with the vision of Faye Tessnow and Barbara Anderson, both members of the Highland Lakes Chapter leading the effort to push the proclamation to the Texas legislature. The vision emphasized the role of native plants in conservation efforts and to be used as incentive for the Texas education system to teach school children about the importance of native plants. Faye Tessnow would send me the following information explaining the steps for Texas Native Plant Week to become a reality.

“The original idea came from Faye Tessnow and Barbara Anderson of Lago Vista, Texas.  It originally began as discussion for a “day” to be set aside where we could have greater emphasis on our goals and implementing our educational outreach. We began this idea by contacting the office of our district representative, Donna Howard at the capitol.  Her staff was very helpful in writing up the proposition. It was then taken in committee and put on a schedule for a hearing.  We were invited to come down for the hearing and speak.

Barbara spoke first and I spoke second.  I shortened my talk because of the issues and proclamation presented before us involved getting nurseries to downplay the sale of “invasives.”  This did not pass. But the speakers had emphasized the importance of native plants.

I had read Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home”. So, I primarily told about an experiment in the book by Aron Flanders in South Texas. Aron Flanders and his coworkers compared bird communities in duplicate plots of land consisting of approximately 494 acres.

The study demonstrated a comparison between native plants and forbs on one parcel of land and the other, which was dominated by two invasives that were imported in the 1940’s. The invasive species were Eragrostis lehmanniana, Lehmann lovegrass and Cenchrus ciliaris, Buffelgrass. The Flanders study proved that the grassland plant community with alien plants restricted the insect and bird communities. The comparison between the two plots of land showed 60% more abundance of arthropods and insectivorous birds with the native plants and forbs versus the 35%, which had the introduction of the lovegrass and buffelgrass.  “I think that it impressed the committee”.

“The proposition went through all the committees and was passed unanimously!   We were thrilled at that.  The bill, H.B. 1739, was signed by Governor Rick Perry on June 19, 2009.  The original proclamation signed by Governor Perry was presented to the NPSOT state office. A few months later, I was honored at an Austin City meeting. Mayor Leffingwell gave me a certificate to honor the occasion”.

Faye Tessnow

2009 Native Plant Society of Texas State Symposium.

“The greatest honor came to our Highland Lakes Chapter when the 2009 State Symposium presented us with the historical quilt. We were also named “Chapter of the Year”. This award is based on outstanding work done to promote the use of native plants and cooperation with communities to educate them”.

“My vision is that greater emphasis will be placed upon the use of native plants because of our drought conditions.  This limits the use of water in the landscape.  I also want to help maintain our wonderful butterflies in their cycle and other pollinators which are so important in our area”.

Thank you, Faye Tessnow, Lago Vista, Texas July 27, 2013

On behalf of those recognizing the importance and impact of native plants, we thank you and Barbara.

 (c) photo Bill Hopkins