PRIMETIME NEWSPAPERS WEEKLY COLUMN
Week of April 30, 2001
By Calvin Finch, Conservation
Director, San Antonio Water System, and Horticulturist
DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTS ALSO
ATTRACT BIRDS AND BUTTERLIES
There are many drought
tolerant plants that are also good plants for attracting birds
Some of you listen
to my radio show on KLUP on Saturdays at noon and Sundays at
1 p.m. We broadcast from the porch at Milbergers Nursery
and so are blessed with a great view of their bloom display.
The hummingbirds are also easy to observe. They like many plants
but the Salvias are among their favorites. Salvia coccinea is
the favorite right now. It comes in several versions. Lady
in Red has bright red blooms. There is the bicolor, which
has pink and white blooms, and also a white selection. Coccinea
does best in morning or full sun. It is a reseeding perennial
that blooms throughout the summer with the best flushes in spring
and fall. The plants only reach about 16 inches tall.
Pyracantha is also
blooming right now. The hummingbirds and butterflies will use
the flowers but the pyracantha is most useful for its berries.
The mockingbirds, cardinals and others strip the plants in winter
after they are softened by cold.
very fast to 12 or 14 feet tall and is very showy when full
of the orange berries. It is a thorny shrub that also attracts
nesting birds when it is allowed to spread. Pyracantha, however,
responds very well to pruning and can be trained to an espalier
or thin hedge. Plant pyracantha in full sun.
One of the favorite
spring fruits is available to birds right now, the mulberry.
Mulberry grows to a tree 35 or 40 feet tall in San Antonio soils.
It is deciduous and can be a weed tree in some circumstances
because of reseeding. Mulberry is also not the greatest drought
tree. Dieback is common and it is often short lived.
claim to fame, however, is its berries. My trees never fully
mature a berry. The mockingbirds, cardinals, finches, catbirds
and thrashers strip the trees before the berries ripen. Even
some of the insect eaters like wrens, vireos, warblers, and
kinglets seem to like the mulberry.
Loquats are also
loaded with fruit right now. They bloom in early winter so do
not bear fruit during cold winters but have a load this year.
Loquat fruit is half-dollar size and can be messy on driveways
or patios but is eaten at by the birds and especially appreciated
by mammals such as opposums, racoons, squirrels and deer.
Loquat is a drought
tolerant evergreen tree that reaches 20 feet tall. With its
large leathery leaves and open canopy, it has a tropical look.
Loquat has excellent shade tolerance or can be grown in full
and wine cups have declined but the coreopsis are covering many
vacant lots in San Antonio. The flat yellow flowers will bloom
all summer and are attractive to butterflies. Spread the seed
over poor soil in vacant fields to get it started. I say poor
soil because the seed needs to reach the soil and does best
when it isnt competing with other plants. Recognize the
coreopsis because of the blooms and its thread-like foliage.
a glow-in-the-dark, red-orange bloom and later forms an unusual
fruit, which is popular with craft workers, as well as birds
and mammals. The fruit looks like a russeted apple with a crown.
Inside are seeds that are surrounded by a jelly-like fruit.
Pomegranite has a pleasant tarty flavor and is probably a good
diet food. It takes as many calories to uncover and eat it as
one receives by eating it. Wonderful is the commercial
fruit-producing pomegranite but the naturalized version that
is common in San Antonio neighborhoods produces a bloom show
in April and produces a reasonable amount of fruit if it is
grown in full sun.
Pomegranite is a
deer-proof shrub in my neighborhood. It grows in sun or shade
and makes a thick shrub with dark-green foliage that seems to