Friday, October 16, 2015

Cardinal Flower Propagation by Brett Auttenberry

A guest post from Brett Auttenberry, hotriculturalist butterfly gardener extraordinaire.

T'is Autumn. That means t'is time to start gathering fruit and seeds for this year's stratification season.
Last season I had great success propagating Lobelia cardinalis, Cardinal Flower: 147 seedlings from one seed pod! The following is my method...

Collect the seed pods (pic 2) when they are fully ripened on the plant. They will be brown and dry. Carefully remove them either with a pinch or a good sharp pare of snips. Lay the pod on a white piece of paper and splitit open. Many tiny spherical seed will spill out. Allow them to sit out and air dry for a time to make sure no moisture is present.
Place the seeds in a small sealed container into the refrigerator for 6-8 weeks. This is called "cold stratification" and is required for many species including Cardinal Flower.
When the stratification time is done take a shallow container (pic 3), about an inch deep, with perforations made in the bottom. This will be your germination tray. Typically perforations are meant to allow for drainage. In this case they allow water to seep up into the container. Fill the container with a good seeding medium and sprinkle the seeds evenly as possible over the medium. The seeds are so small they will almost disappear. At this point DO NOT WATER. Watering will displace and clump the seeds very close together.
Take a second container (pics below) big enough to hold the germination tray and puncture the sides about 3/8"-1/2" up the side. This will be your catch basin. The holes up the side allow the basin to keep a consistent water depth without flooding the germination tray.

Place the seeded germination tray into the catch basin and pour water into the catch basin, allowing the water to hydrate the medium in the germination tray from below.
Once the seeds germinate allow them to grow in the medium until they have 3-5 leaves. Gently remove about a square inch of the medium with the seedlings out of the tray at a time and separate each seedling. You can bare root them if needed in order to separate them. Place each seedling into its own seed cell in 6-pack flats.
Place flats in a large shallow storage container with punctures about 1" up the sides (pic below). Again, this will keep a consistent water depth to keep the soil moist/wet. Until plants are established it's still a good idea to not water directly over the plants but directly into the storage container and allow the water to seep upwards into the cells.
Once the plants have well established roots repot them into 4" pots and place in the same storage container set up. You will, of course, need to have twice as many now that they're in the larger pots.
I hope you have fun!!

Questions can be sent to to be forwarded directly to Brett.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

October Updates

Greetings all!

It is a FANTASTIC month for natives all around so get ready! Cardinal Flower is in full bloom at Burden and Frenchtown, along with Bear's Foot and Crownbeard and a number of others. Activities abound. 

Cardinal Flower on the Burden Woods Trail

Our Field Trip this month will be to Maypop Hill Nursery / Gloster Arboretum on October 17th. Maypop Hill is our nearest and dearest native plant nursery, run by Betty Miley, a co-founder of the Capital Area Native Plant Society and long-time native planter. Gloster Arboretum, just down the road, boasts a number of rare and unusual plants for our region, including wild Mountain Laurel, Silky Camelia and Bigleaf Magnolia. You're in for a real treat with this one.

carpool group will leave Baton Rouge around 7:00 a.m. to arrive at Maypop Hill Nursery around 8:00. We will tour the property while waiting for stragglers and then head on to Gloster Arboretum around 9:00. We will return to Maypop Hill for lunch, where Betty Miley will provide Taco Soup. You can bring chips, appetizers, desserts, etc. as pot luck. On the way back some folks might want to visit the Mary Ann Brown Preserve, which is not far.

Heres the flier:

Plant Fest @ Hilltop Arboretum Oct 3-4
CANPS has teamed up with Hilltop Arboretum and First Graphix, LLC to help label native plants so that you can be sure what you are buying is native. Look for plants with "Certified Native" tag, for plants native to Louisiana. There is an outstanding selection of regional natives at this sale and you don't want to miss it. CANPS will have a table to provide additional information on Saturday, October 3rd. Volunteers are welcome but sign up soon at

Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), a wildflower of rich woods, for sale at Hilltop

CANPS Board Meeting Oct 7th @ Hilltop Arboretum from 6-7pm
We have our board meetings on the first Wednesday of every month. We are exploring a permanent business meeting location at Hilltop Arboretum. This time around we will be planning for fall activities, discussing membership dues/benefits and fall leadership elections. 

Central South Native Plant Conference Oct 29-31st @ the Birmingham Botanic Gardens, Alabama 
A few members will be driving up to this AMAZING conference for Oct 30-31. Treat yourself and come along to meet the movers and shakers of Central-Southeastern native plant movement. Inspiring talks, exquisite native landscaping and field trips to pristine habitats that you will remember for years to come. RSVP at

The native plant propagation program (next workday Oct 18th 4-6pm @ Burden Botanic Gardens) has picked up and we are in full-force fruit and seed collecting mode. If you have fruit or seed in your garden or see some on roadsides, please help us gather them up. For an upcoming fall flowering meadow mix we will need ironweed, boneset, blue mistflower and crownbeard in bulk. Remember to only take 10% of fruits and seeds and leave the remaining 90%  for wildlife and the general health of the plant population. Read more about the ethics of seed collecting at 

As usual, we cannot possibly fit all of the events out there in one blast. Please check: for additional events.

Best wishes,

Matthew and Lauren
Capital Area Native Plant Society
Carolina Crownbeard (Verbesina walteri) at Blackwater Conservation Area

Monday, August 3, 2015

August Updates

Wooowee, its hot... and dry!

But some natives like it hot. This time of year, we look to the pine country for botanical satisfaction. Late summer boasts a number of beauties along the coast and into the open uplands...

This month we will be taking a road trip to see Louisiana's rare and beautiful native orchids and lilies with Dr. Charles Allen for Lily Orchid Days, August 14-16. If you would like to carpool from Baton Rouge, please RSVP below.

There is at least one car leaving from Baton Rouge (Lauren and I). We are leaving Friday at 6pm and returning Saturday evening. Call and check for bunk availability at Allen Acres Bed and Breakfast, phone number 337-328-2252. The option to camp in nearby Kisatchie or onsite exists, but call first! The attached images are from Lily Orchid Days 2013 and show just a few of gems we might see. The orchid is Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris) and the lily is Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii).

Inline image 1
Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)
Inline image 2
Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii)

In other news, we are starting monthly board meetings on the first Wednesday of the month from 6-7pm Our next meeting is September 2nd, location TBD. If you have experience in non-profit management or would like to learn, please consider stopping by. For the next few months we will be taking care of some very important business, including recruiting new executives, restructuring our membership and planning Fall-Winter activities. These meetings are open to the public!

Please continue to check out the blog "ludoviciana" for field reports, board meeting minutes and informational articles. Here's the link: 

Volunteer Opportunity
  • PlantFest tabling/outreach 10/3-4. This year is all about natives and we would like to play a major role.  If you can work the table, let us know!  The teaser for the event is Sept. 27th, and we invite CANPS members to come out for some great presentations on native plants! More info:
  • Native iris plantings in St. Francisville and Baton Rouge in collaboration with BREC and the Patrick O'Connor of Zydeco Irises. Contact for more information.
  • CANPS Plant Propagation: monitoring plants for watering/fertilizing; repotting, seed collection, etc. Next work day: Sunday, August 16, 4:00pm.
As usual, there are too many things going on to include them all here. Please consult the CANPS Calendar for more events! Below are a few important events that you should go ahead and pencil into your calendar:

Best wishes!

Matthew and Lauren
Interim Co-Presidents

Weekend, August 14-16,Lily Orchid Days
@Allen Acres, Pitkin, LA

Sunday, August 16, 4:00pm, Plant Propagation Workday
@ Burden Botanic Gardens, Baton Rouge, LA

Tuesday, September 8-13, William Bartram Trail Dedication
@various locations in Baton Rouge, LA

Sunday, September 13, 5:30pm, Lecture: "Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation"
@EBRP Main Library on Goodwood Blvd

Sunday, September 27, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, PlantFest! Teaser - Bringing Natives Home!
@ Hilltop Arboretum, Baton Rouge, LA

Saturday, October 3-4, PlantFest! Bringing Natives Home
@ Hilltop Arboretum, Baton Rouge, LA

Friday-Saturday, October 30-31, Central South Native Plant Conference
@ Birmingham Botanic Gardens in Alabama

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Propagation Team Strikes Again!

This ones coming in a little late. My apologies for that. I'm currently working on a manuscript and it has consumed a lot of my free time.

The propagation team continues to do good work. This time we started some seeds in cold moist stratification in addition to upsizing our backlog of donations. We had a major contribution from master plantsman Brett Auttenberry this time around.
Lots of lead plant, redbud, cardinal flower and frostweed, thanks to Brett Auttenberry.

Folks that attended:
Pat Villemavette
Dale Bryan
Leif Remo
Alan Pringle
Ken Bosso
Brett Auttenberry
Dick Erlicher
Matthew Herron
Lauren Hull

I've updated the webpage to include links to our propagation plant tracking list. Check out the updated webpage:

Plants we worked on:

Amorpha fruiticosa Leadplant 10
Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed 7
Asclepias  viridis Antelope Milkweed 4
Chamaechrista sp. Patrige Pea 30+
Decumaria barbara Woodvamp 6
Liatris pycnostachya Prairie Blazing Star 50+
Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower 55
Opuntia sp. Prickly Pear 7+
Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue 100+
Pinus glabra Spruce Pine 2
Serenoa  repens Saw Palmetto 1
Stokesia laevis Stokes Aster 100+
Verbesina caroiniana Frostweed, Crown Beard 19

Allan Pringle heading up the seed stratification operations with his daughter and Lauren Hull.

Loading up the goods!

We are quickling filling up this hoop house. We will have to make arrangements as we get more plants. We are also noticing some major effects of the heat and lack of rain on the plants. Overhead irrigation has not really been able to keep up with the plants as they have changed containers. Volunteers are still needed to check on the plants. I've tried to go at least once a week, but that is not enough. Any help is appreciated.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Frenchtown Field and Propagation Day

 It was a fine day, if hot and humid, to get out and hike the trails at Frenchtown Conservation Area (FCA). The FCA is Baton Rouge's largest conservation property, coming in at 496 acres with Sandy Creek just behind at 386 acres and Waddill Outdoor Education Center next at 237 acres. Owned and operated by BREC Conservation Department, this property is full of surprises. Summer months do not typically boast a wide variety of woodland flowers but along edges and openings and into open woodlands, savannahs and prairies, the procession of blossoms that began in the spring continues. Open swamps are also a great place to look for summer blooms.

On drive in down Frenchtown Road, for example, I pointed out a patch of Bear's Foot or Hairy Leafcup (Smallanthus uvedalius) that I had only discovered a few days before while visiting to do trail work for BREC. It was in full bloom. Unfortunately, I couldn't grab a photo from my position in the backseat so I offer you this one down for you from the internet.
I like S. uvedalius. It's leaves remind me of Oakleaf Hydrangea. The fat, round rays stand in great contrast to the foliage. When I see it I think of its mesophytic relative Polymnia canadensis and the rich deciduous forest in which the leafcups tend to grow. 

Upon arrival, we took a nice group shot. We visited two separate, unique botanical areas. One follows an escarpment from loess terrace into backwater sloughs of the Comite River. There, steep slopes between 10-20 ft can be found where a number of plants uncommon to our area can be found. Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginianum), Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa), Woodvamp (Decumaria barbara) were some of the main targets. The area is also quite rich in fern species. On our way out to this point, one of our members stumbled upon a large Xystodesmid Millipede, a diverse family of colorful millipedes many of which excrete hydrogen cyanide compound reminiscent of wedding cake.

Here I'm passing it around to let everyone get a good wiff. Cyanide compounds are also found in many plants in the Rosaceae family, including plums, apricots, apples, cherries and almonds. The crushed leaves of our native Cherry Laurel and Black Cherry give that distinct aroma as well. It is actually an evolutionary adaptation meant to deter insects, much as the millipede intends it to be used.

With a thick canopy cover most of the plants I wanted to show people were hard to find, but I think people enjoyed learning about an area where such topography can be found. I found another S. uvedalia specimen, another great addition to list in this area. There are numerous ridges in the area that still need to be combed through for cool plants. Getting out in March and April next year will be important to future botanical surveys. On our way out to next area we found several Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia serpentaria) plants and some blooming Anglepod (Matelea gonocarpos).

Next we visited the second botanical area: the azalea patch.

In the above picture I am taking some cuttings of Rhododendron canescens. There are likely more patches in East Baton Rouge, but I have not seen any others on public land. We took several cuttings and a slough filled with Golden Club (Orontium aquaticum), a parish record that has not been been recorded in the annals of science. Again, they're not in bloom right now, so I offer this picture from the internet instead.

Hard to believe that in all the years of botanical exploration in this area, this plant was never documented. I will be returning when they are flowering to gather specimens to be entered into the LSU Herbarium.

On our way out, we found an interesting plant in a ditch. I had not seen this one in Baton Rouge yet: Coastal Rose-gentian (Sabatia calycina). I'd never seen this plant period and only seen one kind of Sabatia down on coasts behind dunes and in marshes. There are however a few inland species. These specimes were not in optimal habitat and appeared to be hanging by a thread. I'd love to get seed and see if we could get a health population going somewhere.

Plant List from the Frenchtown hike:
Gulf Sebastian's Bush (Ditrysinia fruticosa)
Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
Virginia Snake Root (Aristolochia serpentaria)
Bear's Foot (Smallanthus uvedalia)
American Strawberry Bush (Euonymous americana)
Wild Comfrey (Cynoglossum virginiana)
Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium)
Silverbell (Halesia diptera)
Piedmont Azalea (Rhododendron canescens)
Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

...more to be added as I remember them. Send an email to canpsbr at gmail for others you remember seeing.

After lunch at McAlister's Deli, we headed over to Burden to clean up the cuttings. We had a great turn out: Kitty Bull, Janella Rachal, Brenda Baumgardner, Ken Basson, Mary Ann Atkinson, James Henson, J Edgar Hough, WIll McManus, Leif Remo, Helen Peebles, Brian Early, Dick Ehlricher. Several new faces, which was great to see. The Rhododendrons were only a small portion of the workday, however. We had a number of plants that were donated that needed to be separated and repotted. Just in the nick of time, too! Summer heat and overgrown root systems do not go well together and many plants desperately need room grown larger and healthier.

We finished with quite a shipment of plants. Some of the plants we divided:

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
Redbud (Cercis candensis)
Wooly Huckleberry (Gaylussacia mosieri)
Alabama Azalea (Rhododendron alabamensis)
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Florida Anise (Illicium floridanum)
American Strawberry Bush (Euonymous americanum)
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Coralbean (Erythrina herbacea)
Winter Huckleberry (Vaccinium arboreum)
Foxglove Penstemon (Penstemon digitalis
Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)

As you can see, this makes us very happy.

Our plants are currently protected under shade cloths and overhead irrigation. They still need to be monitored however and everyone in the propagation team is encouraged to swing by Burden to check on them. 

Afterwards, we went to the milkweed patch I mentioned in our previous propagation post.  CANPS member Brian Early donated some Aquatic Milkweed he had propagated himself from wild plants around the state. We planted some 15 seedlings into the patch. Those transplanted from Cleggs stock into the same area have been thriving so it seemed that this would be a good place to improve genetics. Hopefully this patch will thrive and produce a genetically healthy patch capable of re-seeding.

All in all, a great day. Can't wait for July. Summer party pot luck and movie screening.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Propagation Program - Orientation Day with Notes on the Wild Plants of Burden

It was a lovely day at Burden to dig into the nitty gritty of the propagation program. There are still many details to be worked out but so far, so good. Those who attended: Kitty Bull, Britton Hailor, Paul Orr, Cyndi Levi, Julie Morgan, Tricia Hunt, Helen Peebles, Dick Erlicher, Joe Delotte, Julia Hawkins, James Henson, Allan Pringle, Dianna Moritz and Matthew Herron (that's me!).

The outline as it was discussed in the meeting is featured on our new Propagation Webpage (click here). We potted roughtly 20 flowering dogwoods, 10 mockernut hickories, 10 redbuds, and 7 black-eyed susans. While we intended to start our own work area on the research side of Burden, the Master Gardeners have been generous enough to allow us to use their work benches and tools, as long as we keep things clean and organized. Next work day will be June 21st from 4-6pm.

In other news, I've been continuing to explore and think about the Burden site and its potential for ecological restoration and native plant diversity. Some interesting specimens have been found out there and we'll have to continue exploring to understand what plant populations can be conserved, enhanced or, in some cases, restored.

This aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perennis) was purchased from Cleggs and planted in a low wet area in the restoration portion of woods at Burden. More of an experiment than anything else, my hopes are that we can get enough genetic diversity in this area to build a happy, reproducing population of native milkweed from which we might collect seeds. Hopefully they will also disperse naturally into the landscape and find its own niche in other parts of Baton Rouge. The closest known wild population is at Bluebonnet Swamp.

Burden also has some nice populations of wildflowers due to some areas that are being managed with low- or no-mow areas. Here you can see a profusion of Clasping Coneflower. We'll hopefully be collecting a few seeds from around the area when they are ready. This species is fairly agressive and easy to grow so would be good for a variety of settings and skill levels for native gardeners. 
Dianna found an interesting legume which we debated over some. After reviewing some of the options in our area, I believe it Bigpod Sesbania (Sesbania herbacea). It loves wet areas and germinates readily on moist bare mineral soil, as can be found on swamp edges as the summer heat dries up shallow waters.
Later that day after on a hike, I found some obedient plant growing in a low-mow zone. A wild plant, for all I can tell. There is a known population at Bluebonnet also. Driving East towards Livingston Parish, they become more abundant on the roadsides, but it is not clear whether that is purely due to changing soils or due to change in management of roadsides. Baton Rouge may just be using more herbicides to manage roadsides than out in the country.

Well that is all folks! Stay tuned for more propagation reports and our next field trip we are planning for June.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Invasive Species Art at the LASM in Baton Rouge

There is a very cool exhibit at the Louisiana Arts and Sciences Museum (LASM) here in downtown Baton Rouge. It is both educational and beautiful, combining both natural sciences and modern art. It seems that Megan Singleton and I are on the same wavelength, as I had come to a similar idea not too long ago: make art and education out of noxious invasives. The exhibit brings attention to the growing threat of invasive plants in our local wetlands. The exhibit is open until March 15 and I highly encourage you to go check it out, if you have the chance. You could also write Ms. Singleton and the LASM to thank them for their wonderful work. These kinds of public environmental education projects need all the support they can get. Megan Singleton has her own website and has done much art in her career. You can visit that and thank her by clicking HERE.

From the LASM website:

"Manchac: In the Wake of North Pass explores the destructive beauty and complex role of invasive aquatic plants upon the fragile ecology of Louisiana's bayous. Singleton researched the state's waterways and traveled by canoe to collect the Water Hyacinth and Alligator Weed that she transformed, first into paper and then into evocative pulp paintings and sculptural works. A video comprised of over 500 still photographs of water and a large-format handmade book provide further insight into the artist's process. A native of St. Louis, Singleton received her MFA in sculpture from LSU in 2012."

Background info on the exhibit.

A surreal three-dimensional piece representing aquatic plants that makes you feel like you are swimming in water. The material is a kind of paper machet made from water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) and alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides)
A tumbleweed-like dried plant, mounted to brass, like a hunter's trophy. Lauren and I waxed-botanic about this one for a moment. I think that is is a sea rocket (Cakile sp.).
Lauren checking out a book of photographs depicting the terrible beauty of a land suffering from invasion. Printed on handmade paper.
One of my favorite pages in the book. Notice Chinese Tallow (Triadica sebifera) to the right...

A little booklet on invasive species with quotes from our very own Kelby Ouchley of Bayou Diversity.
Lauren Hull and I (past presidents and partners in crime) went together to check it out and by the end or our trip were feeling very inspired. I think we will be writing Ms. Singleton very soon to thank her for her work and to see if she has in future plans working with invasive species as art.

Perhaps she'd be interested in the idea that I had some time ago to make art from Chinese Tallow. If you are not already aware, Chinese Tallow is an invasive tree that is decimating our wetlands in Louisiana, by crowding out native species and altering soil characteristics. Once diverse bottomlands with upwards of 50 different species of hardwoods or slowly becoming single species stands of tallow, especially in the wake of human disturbance and clearcutting. It has a more visible and dramatic impact on our endangered coastal prairies. In these areas in Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas, grasslands are turning into single-species forest, altering fuel loads and making prescribed fires difficult, removing habitat for threatened and endangered plants and animals such as the Attwater Prairie Chicken and confusing spring migratory birds, who come to rest in these trees after crossing the gulf to find forests with few invertebrates to feed on. To read more on the damage follow this link to the US Fish and Wildlife Services. Chinese Tallow also happens to be a plant with over 1000 years of ethnobotanical history in China and has been used to make candles, dyes, print blocks, furniture, wooding carvings and more.

The idea I had was to pair conservationists with a diverse group of artists, some from LSU and some from the community at large, to visit some invaded sites and see the damage. Give them the opportunity (if they choose and are interested) to help remove invasive and replant natives, but mostly provide them with free materials to make the art and to showcase it in a public art exhibit located in a prominent gallery with high traffic. With a nice opening reception, I think this could be a real success in terms of both bringing diverse audiences into conversation and having a grand ole' time.

What do you think? As an artist myself who has been working in conservation for several years now, I long for the opportunity to get my hands dirty again with paint... and soil too!

For more information on Megan Singleton's exhibit visit: