PYRAMID BUSH (Melochia tomentosa)
History: The Pyramid Bush is a small, slender shrub in the Chocolate Family. Used as border plants in flower beds for their color as well as their neat and compact size. In nature, the Pyramid Bush is found in sandy or rocky soil in mesquite thickets, palm groves, and dry stream beds in the Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos south to the coast of Texas. An excellent xeriscape plant that grows quickly and provides lots of color in the heat of the summer.
Plant care: In less than two months, the plants reach their mature size of two feet and are covered with beautiful bright, violet-pink flowers. Use well-drained soil as a growing medium. They require very little water to become established.
TEXAS BETONY (Stachys coccinea)
History: Texas Betony grows wild in moist crevices of the mountains of the Trans-Pecos; west to Arizona and northern Mexico. Under cultivation it has been very forgiving of drought conditions once established. Texas Betony makes a perennial mound 18 - 24 inches making it an excellent border plant for shade. Spikes of reddish-orange tubular flowers appear early Spring and last until hot weather begins, and start again in Fall.
Plant Care: Remove spent blooms or allow seeds to mature and start new plants. It is a favorite nectar plant for hummingbirds and Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies. Don't plant too close to the edge of the flower bed or the flowers will spill over onto the yard. Pungent leaves are another plus of Texas Betony as deer don't eat them. Give it a little extra water to keep it happy in the sun. Texas Betony is is available in nurseries that specialize in native plants.
CHOMONQUE (Gochnatia hypoleuca)
History: At the SABG by the adobe houses in the south Texas area of the native gardens grows a very interesting shrub known as Chomonque. It is a much-branched shrub considered to be evergreen. An attractive shrub, the upper surface of its leaves are a very dark green and in stark contrast the undersurface of the leaves are white. The average height is between 6 - 8 feet tall. Fragrant winter blooms that attract honeybees, flies, and butterflies.
Plant Care: This shrub is a must for a butterfly garden. Butterflies that have been spotted visiting the area include, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, White Checkered Skipper and the Great Purple Hairstreak. It is drought and freeze resistant and thrives with little attention.
POSSUMHAW (Ilex decidua)
History: The bright red-orange berries of Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) are certain to catch your eye if you are driving around in the Hill Country this winter. Possumhaw or Deciduous Yaupon Holly is a shrub or small tree which has tiny white flowers in spring. Clusters of orange or red berries attached to the stem appear in fall and winter on female plants that are showiest once the leaves have fallen.
Plant Care: It is drought tolerant and easy to grow in any soil. Plant it in your landscape as a specimen garden tree in full sun or use it as an understory plant as it can tolerate half day sun. The fruit is an important winter food source for birds. Its cousin, Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) is an ornamental evergreen tree with glossy leaves. The bright red berries on female plants in fall and winter add color to the winter landscape. Cut stems of the colorful berries for use in decorating for Christmas. Yaupon Holly can also be used in the landscape as a specimen tree or as an understory plant. It is especially suited for small garden spaces. Although drought tolerant it will grow faster if given additional water. Fruit is enjoyed by birds and the stiff branches and evergreen leaves provide protection.