Commentary

JUDY BARRETT'S HOMEGROWN

Click the following link to read Judy Barrett's latest Homegrown issue.

http://homegrowntexas.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/jan-2016.pdf

Judy Barrett is the founding editor and publisher of HOMEGROWN: Good Sense Organic Gardening (now available online).  She was previously the editor of The New Garden Journal and one of the hosts of the public television series, The New Garden.  A long-time organic gardener, Judy writes for various regional and national gardening publications.

She is the author of several gardening books. Her books: Easy Edibles: How to Grow & Enjoy Fresh Food was published by Texas A&M Press in the fall of 2015.  What Can I Do With My Herbs? was published by Texas A&M Press in the spring of 2009. What’s So Great About Heirloom Plants? was published by Texas A&M Press in October, 2010. Recipes From and For the Garden (TAMU Press) appeared in 2012. Yes You Can Grow Roses from Texas A&M Press came out in 2013. Other books include Tomatillos:  A Gardener’s Dream A Cook’s Delight and How To Become An Organic Gardener in 7 Easy Steps.  


OUR NATIVE POINSETTIA COUSINS

This article was originally published by the Native Plant Society of Texas December 20, 2010.  Written by Marilyn Sallee

hristmas Poinsettia is indigenous to Mexico, originating in a rather limited region near present day Taxco; but close cousins north of the border have their own special beauty and vibrancy. In particular, Texas has four native poinsettias that may have a place in your garden.

But first, a little family history. Euphorbias are named after Euphorbus, a 1st century physician and friend of King Juba II of Mauritania (52 BCE – 23 CE). But what makes the family so unusual is that they all have this peculiar flower structure called “cup-flower” or cyathium, and they are the only plants that have this unusual flower shape. Look closely at the cup-flower of any of the poinsettias and you’ll recognize what makes a Euphorbia so different. They also all share another family trait of a thick, milky sap that can be a skin irritant.

The Christmas Poinsettia is only sold for the last six weeks of the year, but tens of millions of them filter through stores and nurseries to make it by far the best selling flowering plant in the United States. It was named for the first United States minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who brought the plant to the U.S. in 1828, and sent them to President Andrew Jackson for a Christmas display at the White House, making it a Christmas tradition. The scientific name, Euphorbia pulcherrima, translates as “the most beautiful Euphorbia.”

Texas natives

The “painted poinsettia” Euphorbia cyathophora.
(Photo by Marilyn Sallee)

The native euphorbia most deserving of cultivation and a place in the flower-bed is a close relative of pulcherrima. The Painted Poinsettia, Euphorbia cyathophora, has bracts that turn an intense day-glo orange-red, and the most amazing fiddle-shaped leaves. This annual re-seeds freely with seed capsules that throw the seeds a great distance when the capsule dries and bursts open.

In the garden, Painted Poinsettia makes a tall background plant of deep green unusual-shaped leaves with the red bracts forming in mid summer. In the flowerbed rich soil can make it lanky and weak, causing it to lay down when wet. Keeping it a background plant gives some support from other plants to hold it upright. And the intense red bracts around the cup-flowers is an eye-catcher – enough to give it another common name of Fire-on-the-mountain. Which leads us to another native poinsettia.

The next of the Texas native poinsettias is actually a pair of plants so closely related they are often mistaken for each other and even interbreed. Even their names are close – Snow-on-the-mountain (Euphorbia marginata) and Snow-on-the-prairie (Euphorbia bicolor). At the end of summer, entire fields suddenly appear to be waist-deep in a lacy white blanket of snow. Both the small cup-flowers and bract edges are white.

Euphorbia_bicolor Euphorbia bicolor
euphorbia-marginata-13-15
Euphobia marginata
Euphorbia_dentata_cyath1
Euphorbia dentata

You can tell the “snows” apart by the leaf shape: marginata is broad-leafed and pointed (ovate) while bicolor has a long, narrow leaf with a rounded tip (spatulate). They both have three-lobed seed capsules which fling the seeds when dry in fall. These are annuals whose seeds are worth gathering for a native garden.

Our final Texas native, Euphorbia dentata, is a humble, unassuming little poinsettia. While its cousins can often be waist tall, dentata is usually about a foot tall. Its leaves are simple, lanceolate with toothed edges and well spaced up the stem. And while its cousins are quite showy when in bloom, dentata is subtle – the bracts near the green flower-cluster turn a powdery silver-white, much like the center of the plant has been dusted with powdered sugar, with green seedpods forming cleaved balls clustered in the center.

And Euphorbia dentata can’t help but reveal a family secret in its common name – Toothed Spurge. Yes, all these poinsettias are spurges, usually considered weeds. But what are weeds but under-appreciated native plants. Painted Spurge, Snowy Spurge, Toothed Spurge – all deserve a place in a diverse native garden.

Growing tips

All need full sun to partial shade, in well-drained soil. Keep well watered but allow soil to dry between waterings. The plants are native to poor soils and do not need fertilizer or excessive water; too much water or fertilizer will provide lanky growth and few flowers. Collect seeds after the pods have fully formed, but before they dry and pop open.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEDUMS, CACTI, KALANCHOES

This article taken from the following link https://ask.extension.org/questions/142181#.Vj_c8eJrwg5

What is the difference between sedum and succulent and cacti? Kalanchoe seems to have many different types. Is Kalanchoe a succulent because it is not winter hardy? Is Dr. John Creech a sedum because it is from the Mountains and is winter hardy?

This question makes an apples-to-oranges comparison, and some basic botany principles are useful in answering it, so bear with me.

Scientific plant identification is called Plant Taxonomy. The entire hierarchy for identifying plants consists of Kingdom, Subkingdom, Superdivision, Division, Class, Subclass, Order, Family, Genus, Species and Cultivar. Fortunately, as gardeners we normally only need to be concerned with the last three classifiers: genus, species and cultivar. Sometimes it’s useful to go up a level and explore Family as well.Genus is a group of closely related species clearly defined from other plants. Species are sub-categories of the genus.

An example of genus and species would be maple trees: Acer is the genus for all maple trees. Under that genus are the species Acer japonicum (Japanese Maple), Acer rubrum (Red Maple), Acer succharinum (Silver Maple) and so on.

A cultivar is a plant or grouping of plants selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by propagation. Most cultivars have arisen in cultivation but a few are special selections from the wild. Continuing with the Maple tree example: Acer japonicum ‘otaki’ identifies a specific cultivar of the species Japanese maple.

Most gardening references and plant tags will provide one to three names. If there are three names given with the first capitalized, the second in lower case and the third in single quotations you have the genus, species and cultivar in that order. Example: At your local nursery, a purple coneflower plant would likely be labeled: Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus' (genus, species, cultivar) If there are only two names given, the first is the genus and the second is the species. If only one name is given and it doesn’t sound like English (usually it’s Latin), it is usually the genus (in this case Echinacea).

If the single name is English, it’s probably the common name, which in this case would be Purple Coneflower.

If you want to read more about taxonomy, here’s a link to a good description of taxonomy from Colorado State University Extension: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/122.html.

Okay -- So with that out of the way, let’s look the specific plants you’ve asked about:

The term succulent is used to describe plants having some parts (leaves, roots, or stems) that are more than normally thickened and fleshy, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. But plants are not either succulent or non-succulent. Within the same genus and family there might be plants with thick leaves and normal stems as well as plants with very thickened and fleshy leaves or stems. So deciding what is a succulent is often arbitrary. “Succulent” is a term of description, not a category in formal plant classification.

Read more: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEDUMS, CACTI, KALANCHOES

EDIBLES DALLAS & FORT WORTH

E
dible Dallas & Fort Worth is a community-based publication that promotes the abundance of local foods in the greater Dallas & Fort Worth areas including counties all the way to the Oklahoma border. We celebrate the growers, producers, retailers, artisans, chefs, bakers, home cooks and gardeners, vintners, brewers and all who energize our community with authentic, locally based food choices.

Edible Dallas & Fort Worth is intended for those who are interested in:

  • Eating delicious, locally grown, seasonal foods.
  • Getting to know the people who grow, produce, cook and sell those foods.
  • Learning more about what’s available in your community

Click here for their on line issues:  http://www.ediblecommunities.com/dallasfortworth/

EDIBLES