Texas Treehugger | "Native Plants That Prevail" | Text by Christy Ilfrey, Photos by David A. Ilfrey, Jr.

Nature always prevails. Whether you live on a prairie, desert, in the mountains or at the beach, eventually your life will be affected in some way by the elements. It is not always as catastrophic as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the San Marcos (TX) Flood of 1998. Sometimes record rainfall can inflict enough damage to interrupt your life and livelihood. Recently, here on the Texas Coast, we awoke to nearly 13” of rain falling within a mere five hours. This was an historic rain event. Communities throughout The Bend flooded and residents had to be evacuated. A little more than a week later, people in Aransas Pass are still cleaning up after the storm.

Our property is located within Aransas County between Rockport and Aransas Pass. Our rainwater tanks ran dry about a month before the storm so we had been purchasing bulk water from the City of Aransas Pass on a daily basis. When the rain began, of course we were thrilled. The tanks are filling, the tanks are filling! The next morning, a pond appeared where once stood gorgeous gardens, a native plant nursery, a driveway and parking area, and our front yard. Higher-than-normal tide is preventing the pond from draining. Until it recedes, the nursery is accessible by kayak and wading in water up to 2 feet deep.

For the most part, we have enjoyed this natural fluke. Many birds have come to visit our pond, and the dragonflies are feasting upon the giant mosquitoes. Fairy shrimp and tadpoles appeared recently, too. Study tank – a hands-on science activity we typically do at the beach – can now be done from our porch. Our edible plants were wiped out: all that work, gone! My heart sank when I first saw the nursery. So much water, everywhere…

Immediately we began rescuing plants and relocating them to higher ground. Ultimately we ran out of accessible “higher ground." Today I decided to take the kayak to get another look. Some plants succumbed to the flood, some are hanging in there, but there are quite a few that are thriving. Of those that are thriving, there are a few ornamental grasses and other plants that make stunning, low-maintenance shrubs. Plant them and let them be. They provide food and/or shelter for wildlife. Most importantly, they epitomize the natural identity of Texas’ Coastal Bend. Whether drought or deluge, these plants will continue to perform and provide ecological benefits.

Gulf Cordgrass

Gulf Cordgrass, Spartina spartinae. What’s not to love about this gorgeous grass? It’s evergreen. It stands approximately 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Its blooms are white and lightly fragrant. Great plant for birds.

Gulf Muhly
Gulf Muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris. Another gorgeous clumping grass standing approximately 3x3’, Gulf Muhly steals the show in any fall garden with its pink, cotton candy-like blooms.

Elliott's Lovegrass

Elliott’s Lovegrass, Eragrostis elliottii. Stands 12-18” tall and array of white blooms resemble sparklers.

Sea Oxe-Eye Daisy

Sea Oxe-Eye Daisy, Borrichia frutescens. Silver foliage year-round, yellow blooms mid-spring to first frost then intermittently remainder of year.


Railroadvine, Ipomoea pes caprae. Groundcover with large, glossy leaves and purple, bell-shaped flowers.

Christy Ilfrey and her husband David own and operate NativeDave.com. Their mission: "To make positive changes in our community by way of sustainable landscape design and consultation services, speaking engagements and writing projects. We strive to educate, entertain and empower audiences to conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate Nature."

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