Texas Native Plant Week Celebrated Statewide

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AUSTIN – Gardeners and others throughout Texas can help nurture the state’s diverse landscape this fall by participating in Texas Native Plant Week activities Oct. 18-24.

The awareness week is sponsored by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin, the National Wildlife Federation, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the City of Austin. The slogan for the week, which occurs during the fall planting season, is “Proud Texans Plant Texas Natives.”

Among the week’s various statewide activities are the unveiling of a Web site about native plant resources and events, educational presentations and opportunities to volunteer to help preserve native plants. There will also be demonstration gardens available statewide for viewing and inspiration.

During the week, Houston residents can participate in restoring a native prairie and visitors to the State Fair can ask Dallas Master Naturalists about a garden developed on site. Activities elsewhere include tours that cover the desert gardens at El Paso’s Museum of Archeology, an online program which allows Austinites to help count area trees and plant sales in San Antonio where participants can claim the beauty of native species for their own home landscapes.

The “Urban Events and Native Info” section of the Web site for Texas Native Plant Week offers more details about these activities as well as expert talks and lists of reliable native plants to use in yards. [http://txnativeplantweek.wordpress.com/.]

This site was developed with input from awareness week partners and also includes resources for finding suppliers of native plants and seeds, articles about Rio Grande reforestation activities and other information about recognizing aggressive, non-native plant species. This is important because some exotic species compete with native plants for resources.

Exotic species are not as practical, tenacious, and drought-resistant as natives, which are acclimated to the temperamental Texas climate as well as its soils. This means native species provide better habitat for useful Texas wildlife such as butterflies or hummingbirds. Natives also do not rely on pesticides and chemical fertilizers to thrive, and usually require less water and general maintenance than exotic species once they are established.

Planting native tress, shrubs and flowers not only helps conserve water, it improves its quality. These local plants also help sustain the region’s extensive assortment of flora and fauna and provide the state’s landscapes with their unique identities. Not to mention, their presence gives Texans a sense of home.

Recognizing the importance of public support for the survival of native species, Texas Native Plant Week began as a partnership in 2009 between the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the City of Austin, the office of state Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin), and the Native Plant Society of Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Wildlife Federation became awareness week partners this year with the City of Austin and the Wildflower Center.

Visit City of Austin Green Garden Initiative [http://cityofaustin.org/greengarden] for more information about special events, educational and volunteer opportunities, demonstration gardens and other resources.