Oh, this Southern drought. My home state of Texas is in serious trouble. It’s something awful, but lessons are being learned by many a gardener — native plants are handling it much better than those originating in other regions. Still, native plants themselves have had to hunker down to withstand the blazing sun and lack of water. Blooms are scarce, and some plants have gone dormant in order to survive until rain comes. Absent nectar and pollen, as well as plants that just plain don’t make it, mean a loss of food sources for insects, and the resulting decline in insects is having a direct effect on the survivability of other wildlife. Missing blooms and pollinators also means less seed production, resulting in low reproduction rates for plant species, and seed-eating animals are also faced with potential starvation.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’re really getting to see what plants are toughest in the toughest of times. Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) is one of them. It’s a Southern native, but it’s actually producing blooms right now despite nary a drop of water coming its way. And that’s good news for hummingbirds, because Flame Acanthus is one of their favorites as they pass through Texas on their way to Central America and South America.
Flame Acanthus is a shrub that can grow to 3-5 feet tall. It can tolerate some shade, but it blooms best with plenty of sunlight. When conditions are favorable, it will make little seedlings that you can share with others. Plant it with plenty of room, because it is a fast-grower, adaptable to many a soil type. But this Southern beauty is destined to stay Southern — cold winters will make it die to the ground, and the farther north you go — well, you know….
The lesson to be learned, though, is that whatever your region, you’ve got plants that are meant to be there and can handle whatever extreme weather your region gets. Find them, plant them, love them — and love the wildlife that will love your garden!
By the way, did I mention that Flame Acanthus is a caterpillar host plant? Crimson Patch and Texan Crescent butterflies seek out this plant in order to lay their eggs. I just adore Flame Acanthus!
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