Native Plant Week is celebrated during the third week of October. Learning about native plants doesn’t have to be as dry as dust. There’s more to it than searching through botany field guides and memorizing names. A very good way to get to know native plants is by growing them. If you want to start your own plants from seed or from cuttings, read How To Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest. For ideas about which plants to use and how to arrange them, I recommend Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region By Region. The book begins with sample plans for each region of the state. The rest of the book is a species-by-species guide to plants, from the tallest tree to the lowliest ground cover.
The most visceral way to learn about native plants is to eat them. Before adding wild plants to your diet consult some local experts and books like Edible and Useful Plants of Texas and the Southwest by Delena Tull. She tells us what can be eaten raw and offers guidance on how to prepare the rest. Tull helps you keep from dying by eating the wrong plants and helps you do some dyeing, using native plants. For stories about how people have used the plants found in Texas throughout history, try Remarkable Plants of Texas. The author has brought together information from a wide variety of technical and historical sources and synthesized it into very enjoyable chapters on 65 different plant species.
As with many things in life, you can’t learn all you need to know about using native plants from a book. In the Austin area we are blessed with local experts and organizations that can help us learn our native plants:
- Austin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas
- Weed Feed, offered by Scooter Cheatham of the Useful Wild Plants Project
- Go Native U, classes offered at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center
Re-read these APL blog entries about gardening and water conservation in Austin: Dry Gardening with the City of Austin, Dig Holes, Bamberger Ranch.