Monday, March 26, 2012

Beauty and the Beast in Wildflowers

Trouble is, this imported wildflower, the beast called Bastard Cabbage, is taking over our pastures and road side areas. I just completed a wildflower photo shoot of Texas wildflowers, especially the beautiful Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush. What a  surprise to find such brilliant yellow fields, adding a new level of brushed color for early-to-mid-Spring. Not all yellow flowers are this species, but the large patches of yellow you observe from the road are almost exclusively this plant right now. We need to eradicate them, but in all honesty, there is little that can be done except to pull them up over and over again. They are known to displace our natural wildflowers by their large leaves which shade out the sun in the fall, a requirement to survive, especially for Bluebonnets. Most of these photos were taken just South of Brenham, Texas.

Bastard Cabbage
I visited several patches of this wildflower during my recent scenic road trip in Southeast Texas. This plant is spectacular. Butterflies are feeding on nectar everywhere inside these patches.
Observed on Highway 290 north of Brenham - should be Bluebonnets!

A native yellow wildflower - Showy Nerveray with a Monarch feasting

Invasive species - Mediterranean Mustard also known as Bastard Cabbage with an Orange Sulfur Butterfly feeding
There are actually many yellow flowers indigenous to Texas. This flower has four lobes and blooms concurrently with the Bluebonnets.
Note the cluster arrangement of the invasive plant. Butterfly is the white form of the female Orange Sulfur butterfly. 
Painted Lady on the wild (Mediterranean) mustard
Our problem with this invasive plant is similar to that of the invasive vines growing in Tennessee and Arkansas.  They would not be so bad except they dominate the ground on which they live, to the point of depriving survival of the species of plants we so love. The seeds of this beautiful plant are small like Rye grass. It is speculated that the seeds have been introduced to this country from grass seeds and in organic materials from gardening supplies imported from European sources. Once started, deep roots will spread in the ground. The plant re-leafs at the same time in the fall as our wildflowers are trying to sprout. Their seeds also propagate through birds feeding on them and wind blowing the small light seeds from place to place. The plant is more than a nuisance, it is a threat to Texas!

One thing for sure, our butterflies are gorging themselves with its nectar and in turn making sure the plant is germinating many many seeds.

+ Invasive Database reference
+ More information published on the plant by KXAN News - "Invasive Plant Threatens Bluebonnets" 

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