currently in Austin


Top 10 Remarkable Plants for CTG

Texas mountain laurel flower spike
  1. Texas mountain laurel – Sophora secundiflora
  2. Chiltepín – Capsicum annuum
  3. Horsetail – Equisetum hyemale
  4. Yaupon – Ilex vomitoria
  5. Prickly-pear cactus – Opuntia engelmannii
  6. Yellow horsemint – Monarda punctata
  7. Rattlesnake master – Eryngium yuccifolium
  8. Live oak – Quercus virginiana
  9. Wild grape [Gray-bark grape]– Vitis cinerea var. helleri
  10. Plains coreopsis – Coreopsis tinctoria
  1. Texas mountain laurel – Sophora secundiflora
    • In TX archaeological sites back 10,000 yrs ago
    • Found in arch sites through west TX and Edwards Plateau
    • Hypothesis: shamanism
    • Historic tribes (Caddo, Comanche, Tonkawa, Kiowa) used in rites & rituals involving divinations & visions
    • Item of trade – more than 30 tribes used for beads attached to clothing
    • Horse would be traded for a string of 8-10 beads
  2. Chiltepín – Capsicum annuum
    • Progenitor of almost all the peppers we know and use today (Anaheim, bell, cayenne, jalapeno, poblando, serrano)
    • Wild pepper remains in Mexico – one of 1st documented spices used by humans anywhere in world (9200 yrs ago)
    • Rich in antioxidants, raises metabolism; capsaicin renowned as a painkiller
    • Official state native pepper of Texas (1995); great part-shade plant in garden
  3. Horsetail – Equisetum hyemale
    • Living fossil: has one of longest fossil records of any living genus of plants – back to late Devonian (350 mya), ancestors were trees 60’ tall, 2’ across at base
    • Some of Earth’s first extensive forests were of this tree
    • Peaked in diversity in the Carboniferous (290-350 mya) in which 75% of world’s coal was formed
    • Only plant known to require silicon to grow
    • Wartlike tubercles of silicon on surface: scouring agent
    • Erosion control – great for water gardens if contained
  4. Yaupon – Ilex vomitoria
    • Great tea plant – dried leaves contain 0.27% caffeine – only wild tea in TX with the stimulant
    • Almost every indigenous tribe in the SE drank this tea, as did Spanish and English colonials, pioneers
    • Vomitoria comes from ritual purgings (3-6 gallons/person); not from plant itself
    • Parallel story:  yerba mate (same genus, same story in S America)
    • Why didn’t “yaupon mate” become a southern drink?
  5. Prickly-pear cactus – Opuntia engelmannii
    • Official State Plant of Texas (1995)
    • Arguably, of all our native plants, pp has been most responsible for keeping humans and beasts from starting during times of deprivation
    • Every part is useful for something
      • Pads:  food, medicine, material (rich Vit A & calcium)
      • Flowers:  edible
      • Fruit:  edible – Cabeza de Vaca and “tuna time”!
      • Seeds:  ground into flour and baked
      • Thorns:  arrow pts for small birds (Kiowa); tattoo needles (Apache)
      • Sap:  varnish, color fixer; water clarifier
      • Cochineal insect – 3rd most valuable export from New Spain (1520-1850) after gold & silver
  6. Yellow horsemint – Monarda punctata
    • Ideal candidate for those wanting instant wildflower patch
    • Thymol = antisceptic & fungicide, normally obtained from common thyme
    • Y. horsemint as 2x much thymol; used as substitute in WWI when common thyme unavailable
    • Thymol used in Listerine, lip balms, toothpaste
    • TX beekeepers consider several spp of Monarda as most important source of honey in state; 20% of TX honey crop
    • Beebalm – crushed leaves applied to bee stings
    • Steep a few leaves in your next tea
  7. Rattlesnake master – Eryngium yuccifolium
    • Great accent piece in garden
    • Indicator plant of the Tall Grass Prairie – only 0.1% of this ecosystem remains in native state
    • Root: antidote for poison, snakes in particular – tribes throughout whole eastern half of US
      • Raw, steeped in water, boiled – also chewed and applied as poultices
      • Romans used another sp. of same genus for snakebite
      • Rural Jordanians use another sp. of same genus for scorpion bites, for which there is scientific evidence of its effectiveness
    • Ancient fiber plant:  archaeological remains to 8300 bp (MO, AR, KY, TN)
    • Some of oldest footwear in N. Amer made from this; also, cords, bags, cloth
  8. Live oak – Quercus virginiana
    • Extremely hard wood; among heaviest of all U.S. woods
    • Days of wooden ships:  strongest and most durable shipbuilding wood in US and 2nd in world only to teak  (used for frames and knees – stronger than any artificial joint)
    • Northern lumbermen would come to the South for “live oaking”
    • Ship of the line needed approx 680 trees
    • USS Constitution – “Old Ironsides”—famous e.g.; War of 1812; oldest commissioned warship afloat in world today
    • Live oak is 1st American tree to be set aside for future use as a forest preserve (islands off Georgia)
    • [Acorns; oak galls; commemorative trees]
  9. Wild grape [Gray-bark grape]– Vitis cinerea var. helleri
    • Roughly dozen spp of grape in TX (half of the US total)
    • Texas saves the European wine industry
      • US wild grapes are largely immune to the phylloxera insect (a sap-sucking, aphid-like louse)
      • Phylloxera appears in S. France in mid 1860s
      • 2/3rds of European vineyards were destroyed; all of southern France
      • Thomas Volney Munson (Denison, TX) directed French scientists to native grapes that would withstand both phylloxera and chlorosis; crossing of TX rootstocks with French rootstocks was smashing success
      • “Man who saved the French vineyards”
      • Munson receives the French Legion of Honor (only 3rd American to do so…Thomas Edison and Dwight Eisenhower)
    • Texas wines:  TX ranks 5th among US producers of wine; 15000 sq mi in central TX is US’s largest official American Viticultural Area
  10. Plains coreopsis – Coreopsis tinctoria
    • Among top 20 favorite flowers among gardeners in every region of our state
    • Dye plant: White Mtn Apache, Cherokee, Zuni used; red, red-brown, orange-red, gold, yellow
    • Tea: Lokota called it “boiled weed”; both Lokota and Zuni made a red drink from plant (boil flowers in water few minutes)
    • Pioneers used in mattress stuffing – repel fleas & bedbugs (also horsemint)