Donna’s Garden, May Update

by Donna Lewis

Here is the May 20th update on my pollinator garden. Every year the garden is different depending on what comes back.

Wildflowers can’t be put down!

This year was really scary because of the freeze . I was not sure what might be completely dead.

We can thank the rain for some of this lushness.

But, and I love this part…90% of my garden was planted with native plants! They are sturdy!! I did have a few larger bushes that have not shown up and probably won’t.

All this beauty makes you forget last winter, almost.

But the garden is still a beauty. Everything is about five weeks behind its normal time to bloom. The vines are just now popping up, and some plants that like more sun and hot weather have not started to bloom just yet.

These natives are happy.

This is why planting things that are native to your area keeps the budget low. They come back!

The white flowers really pop in the shade!

Happy gardening!

Blue Birds Hitting Window Panes

by Donna Lewis

The second week of May brought an issue up at my house that I have not had before.  Blue birds hitting my windows trying to catch insects. I was worried they would hurt their beaks and my window panes.

I tried putting objects in front of the window, placing furniture inside of the house that showed thru, decals made just for this purpose and just waiting outside to scare the birds away. All with no luck.   The pounding went on all day.

Then Linda remembered that we had saved some plastic construction fencing from when our house was built.   Strong and lightweight. So we put some up around the house and it worked.

Bird Proofed!

I don’t know what was different this year that caused the birds to do this, I just hope it doesn’t happen again.

Shutting that one blind helped, too.

Scientific Names for Spiders Are Handy

by Eric Neubauer

When we learned about scientific names in the training classes, we were introduced to how the name of the person that initially described them is often appended to the name. At the time, it seemed rather redundant.

As I found out recently, it can be very useful. I’ve been trying to untangle the lapidicina group of Pardosa wolf Spiders in Texas. These are the largest of the Pardosa spiders around here, and they like rocks, especially limestone outcrops. Their common name is stone spiders because of it.

I’m not aware of any in Milam County, but there are some at  Granger Lake just next door. There are also some along  Brushy Creek in Williamson County and several places along the lake near Belton in Bell County. In total, there are four species in Texas, which are apparently found in limited areas that don’t necessarily overlap.

Here’s one found near Granger Lake. It’s looking right at us!

Here’s what happened. P. sierra was described by Banks in 1898 from specimens collected in Baja California. P. atromedia (California) and sura were described subsequently. In 1959, Barnes decided they were all the same species, P. sierra, which had an immense range in southwestern U.S. and in Mexico. This was based on similar morphology of genitalia.

Then, in 2010, Correa-Ramirez et al. looked at the genetic code of specimens  and concluded that they were indeed separate species, and that  atromedia was in California, sierra was in Baja California, and sura was everywhere else. Additional studies may eventually add to these ranges, but for us it’s very likely that Texas has sura and not sierra. The other species in Texas are lapidicina, mercurialis, and vadosa. They are difficult to tell apart and all appear to come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Earth Day at the Wildscape

by Carolyn Henderson

[Better late than never, we’re catching up with contributions!]

Earth Day at the Birds and Bees Wildscape proved to be a banner attendance day for both members and visitors. There were 15 members of the El Camino Real Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist present to visit with the 80+ visitors that came to the site Saturday, April 24. 

Some of our group! Catherine Johnson, Donna Lewis, Donna Dworaczyk, Joyce Connor, Kim Summers, Carolyn Henderson, Scott Berger, Alan Rudd

Members visited with visitors and handed out bags full of goodies. There were pamphlets, booklets, posters, wildflower seeds, vegetable seeds, bird feeders, painted rocks, and snacks to be had. They also got to stroll through the wildscape and the bird farm.

Catherine Johnson, event organizer, shares educational material and seeds with a visitor. 

The wildscape has quite a few blooming plants. I found Zizotes Milkweed and Butterfly Milkweed that are just starting to bud out. Verbena and Blue Sage were big draws for butterflies and bumblebees. The rose bush was in bloom, and the Malabar Spinach is making a strong comeback.

American Lady on verbena.

Alan Rudd and Scott Berger hung Mason Bee nests, and Alan gave several to members. He’s tracking where the most of them get nested in the area to decide the best places to put them. Alan, I, and a cute little blonde-headed girl also discovered a stinging plant hanging out around the flowers. It really stings (see our recent stinging nettle post!). Ask the little blond-headed girl. Painted rocks and chocolate chip cookies couldn’t even stop her fussing. 

Alan Rudd and Scott Berger hand Mason bee nests.

Members got Guinea eggs that had been laid in the wildscape under a plant, and some new native flowers to plant at home. Alan Rudd took many of the eggs to hatch. I hope we’ll get to see pictures here. 

Darlene Rynolds, Donna Lewis, Jackie Thornton, Chapter President Sue Ann Kendall

And a word of caution, wear gloves when cleaning out around the flowers, and don’t leave your phone in your back pocket when you go to the outhouse (that happens to be plumbed). 

Scott Berger, Liz Lewis, Eric Neubauer, Pamela Neeley 
Kim and Donna giving the resident donkey some love.

Stinging Nettle, Not Your Friend

by Donna Lewis


This week, I bare handedly pulled what I thought was a little weed in my garden. Hot Dog!!!  The little beauty was a stinging nettle plant  (Urtica dioica).   

Stinging nettle. The owie plant.

Stinging doesn’t really describe it; it’s more like intense pain instantly!!  The family and genus comes from the Latin uro which means “I burn”.

Being a Master Naturalist, I try not to label anything a “weed.” Everything has a purpose for someone. Nettle plants actually have a lot of good things nature and humans can use them for. Here are some examples:

  • This nettle is the host plant for the Red Admiral and Question Mark butterflies.
  • It makes a soothing tea. 
  • Parts of it are edible when cooked properly.

The stinging nettle is not to be confused with the larger Bull Nettle, which also has redeeming qualities, like beautiful white flowers.

But, beware to handle it with care. Some leather gloves might help.

I bet, at least for a while, I will be more careful.

PS: This post was from the end of April, but your blogger has had some issues getting posts done. Time to catch up!