Texas Treehugger | "Plants for Solar Meltdown" | Text and 5 Photos by Christy Ilfrey

Seaside Goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens
"Summer" is too fanciful for our season's conditions. I like "Furnace," or "Firestorm" or "Solar Meltdown" better. How can anyone or anything survive heat indices of 105-109, ten days in a row (and it's only June)? We human animals lounge in the gentle waters of Aransas Bay or get more active surfing the Gulf of Mexico. Municipal pools and local waterparks appeal to a lot of people, too. "Stay hydrated", you say: water, coconut water, ice chips. Eat watermelon! We do what we have to do to keep cool and sane in this insanely hot and humid climate.

Landscapes appear as if they will spontaneously combust under duress. The truth is, there are a lot of plants that are genetically coded to tolerate all of the intense conditions of Texas' Coastal Bend. Dune Sunflower is a compact perennial with vibrant yellow blooms. Its leaves often remain green year-round. Butterflies love it, but it does not love water. Or too much love. This image was taken Monday, June 27th, at Rockport Beach, in front of Beachfront Pavilion. There is no irrigation; these plants were hand-watered initially and have thrived on ambient rainfall for several months. They are still a little youngish so look for them again in the fall and winter when they will be larger and continuing to push up smiling blooms. :)

Dune Sunflower, Helianthus debilis

Another plant gearing up for its Big Moment is Goldenrod. Attractive to butterflies, these golden spikes are attractive along waterfront properties, blanketing coastal prairies, and pinching in the edges of stands of Live Oak/Redbay forests. Primarily we favor two different Solidagos: Seaside Goldenrod and Sweet Goldenrod. In the projects at Rockport Beach, we have used Seaside. But if you would like to see Sweet Goldenrod (which is edible!) up close and in person, stop by Coastal Bend Health Foods at 111 N. Austin Street in Rockport. They are growing gangbusters right now.

Seaside Goldenrod gone to seed

A favorite companion plant to Goldenrod is Gayfeather, or Liatris. Because our spring rains arrived late and dumped nearly half of our annual rainfall in a mere five hours, a lot of plants are currently confused. Gayfeather started blooming far too early. Well, some did. Other species seemed to take the upheaval in stride. The chilled-out species are hanging out with the Sweet Goldenrod at Coastal Bend Health Foods.

More confusion among plants exists within ornamental grasses. Gulf Muhly, whose show begins in mid-fall, appears to have begun an early bloom sequence. A beautiful swath of this cotton candy-like grass is at Beachfront Pavilion. As previously mentioned, there is no irrigation in any of these beds, so low-water consuming plants were selected. Gulf Muhly can also tolerate very moist soil.
Gulf Muhly at Beachfront Pavilion, Rockport Beach

Close up of "confused" Gulf Muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris

Despite their confusion, these gorgeous natives will probably continue to perform through their "normal" cycle.

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." You can find Christy and David's informative articles through their column entitled "Texas Treehugger" here.

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