Skip to main content

Tiny Treasures – under the mower blades!

By Julie d'Ablaing, Houston Audubon Natives Nursery Volunteer

As we are both educated and encouraged to increase the diversity of native plants in our home landscapes to support the wide range of pollinators and birds that are under threat, one overlooked niche may be under the mower blades!  

As a beekeeper, I am thankful for the early flowering clovers, in grassy areas in my neighborhood, although they are frowned upon by many residents as weeds in their lawns!  They help sustain the earliest of our nectar seekers.  As a naturalist I note the Herbertia, Sabatia, and the sprawling legumes, Neptunia and Mimosa spp., that are native “weeds”  supporting the more specialist native bees and butterflies.

Tropical Puff (Neptunia pubescens), a host plant for the Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) butterfly.

On the almost desolate, non-irrigated mowed grass areas of the Copperfield Trail, dominated by Bermuda grass, Tropical Puff (Neptunia pubescens), a creeping herb with small yellow flowers manages to thrive.  This plant, is in the pea family, and has sensitive leaflets that close when touched (NB. Never ending entertainment for kids and adults alike!).  It is drought tolerant, probably due to a significant tap root. 

I have recently been trying to reach out to my neighbours who walk along this gas easement mowed wasteland to challenge them to notice these little treasures; both the plant and the associated butterfly with a short article tucked into the Landscape Committee section of the free local newspaper.  

“……Just as Monarch Butterflies need native milkweeds to lay their eggs on and to raise their caterpillars, so the Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) butterflies use these plants as a host plant.  This beautiful butterfly is tiny, smaller than a dime! So on your next walk along the Copperfield Trail take a closer look for these tiny treasures!”

The challenge continues to be to increase awareness of the ecological value of our landscaping, while maintaining the aesthetics that all expect. 


Popular posts from this blog

Creating a Pocket Prairie in an Urban Backyard

In September of 2017, my girlfriend Amanda and I, along with our dog Scout, moved out of our apartment and into a house in Houston’s Sunset Heights. One of the selling points of this house was that it had a small backyard the three of us could enjoy together. It was a simple space comprised of zoysia grass, Japanese yew, and bamboo. In June of 2018, Scout was sniffing around our backyard and decided to eat a couple of Japanese yew berries that had fallen on the ground. This led to her getting sick and spending the next two nights recovering at a veterinary clinic. This is the event that made me start to question everything growing in our backyard. Why did we have grass, shrubs, and bamboo from Asia? Why had we never seen a butterfly in our yard? We decided we needed to make some changes. To begin my research, I read The Houston Atlas of Biodiversity by Houston Wilderness, Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy, and Native Texas Plants by Sally Wasowski and Andy Wasowsk

Critical habitat is closer than you think - Rice University students create a Habitat Conservation Plan to support wildlife in our city

Across the world, species are rapidly disappearing before our eyes. This is a biodiversity crisis. Urbanization has caused habitat degradation, loss, and fragmentation, which contribute to the decrease in global biodiversity. At Rice University, fifteen students signed up for Dr. Cassidy Johnson’s Conservation Biology Lab in hopes of making changes on their campus and in their city to protect and enhance the local biodiversity. These students are creating and communicating their desires to implement a Habitat Conservation Plan at Rice University in order to contribute to urban conservation efforts right here in Houston. Their project tackles specific biodiversity concerns including critical habitat, bird conservation, pollinator gardens, medicinal gardens, carbon sequestration, and wetland restoration. The following piece is written by students in the Conservation Biology Lab who are taking part in developing that plan. This is the first post in a series. ----- When people walk

Houston, we have an announcement. We’re now a Bird City!

We know that Houston is a vital city for birds, but now it’s official . Houston Audubon’s Conservation Team worked tirelessly in partnership with Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD) Natural Resources Program to submit the application, and it paid off. Houston was honored as one of the first four cities to receive the Bird City Texas certification – an inaugural program by Audubon Texas and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). So, what exactly does being a Bird City mean? The big picture is that we have demonstrated that our community cares about birds, habitat, and conservation. The growing popularity of planting native plants, restoring prairies, bird-friendly education programs, and the Houston Lights Out for Birds program to reduce collisions for migrating birds were among the many efforts and programs that got us this designation. ( Go Houstonians! ) I personally witnessed the large amount of work that went into this application and was curious about