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Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

Anticipation

This mature Datura (Datura wrightii/Sacred thorn-apple) planted close to our front door has been showing off this summer, demonstrating why it is allowed to dominate the area where it grows.
For several weeks it had been developing a record number of buds, each one reminding me a bit of okra pods.  We watched the pods get larger, and eventually a few began to unfurl each day.  Then, record numbers of the pods matured at once, and for two evenings in a row this one plant has treated us to an even dozen blossoms, all opening at one time.
Previously I'd tried in vain to appreciate the widely reported fragrance of the blossoms. Now I can smell them!
The bees have been taking advantage of the fact these blooms, shaded by the house, aren't exposed to direct light until the sun is high in the sky.
The flowers stay open all morning and drew the bees in droves earlier today.
I spotted multiple types, European honeybees and native bees alike.
We were all happy-happy.
Datura is a native, and the speed with which the one-day-and-done flowers draw pollinators in is testimony to a long-standing and well evolved relationship.  I've not had luck starting these plants from seed, but nursery stock is readily available year 'round, with spring planting recommended for more reliable success.

I have two smaller Datura plants out closer to the street, but they aren't the beneficiaries of extra hand watering and have only been in place for a season or two.
Exposed to harsh afternoon sun, my baby Datura haven't yet bloomed, but I'm confident if they make it through the winter yet to come, and become better established, they'll be sharing spectacularly sized white flowers all their own with passers by (and bees!) for years.
Datura wrightii.  Well worth the wait.




20 comments:

Tina said...

Oh, so nice!! I've never seen my honeybees at the datura, only a couple of unknown little natives--and the datura is planted about 5 feet away from the hives!! So glad your datura is putting on a show and what a show it is. Mine has had blooms, though not as many as yours and it sounds like you get to enjoy the blooms by the light of the sun, too. I'm so tickled that I finally have a datura as I'm sure you are too.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: There were two types of pollinators I spotted this AM that I am tentatively IDing as native bees. A large (noisy!) carpenter bee type and another more slender and dark bodied type. Most of the bees visiting this AM were honeybees however, often working the blooms two at a time.

I keep reading all parts of the plants are toxic. And now I'm wondering - does any of that toxicity get into the honey the bees I saw today will produce?

Kris Peterson said...

What an impressive plant! I can understand why you and the bees are excited - just looking at it gets me excited too. I seldom see Datura around here - it isn't even listed in my Sunset garden guide - but I found this one on my favorite mail order site so maybe I'll try planting it down at the bottom of the slope below the Pittosporum 'Silver Magic.' I understand that deer don't bother it - I wonder if it deters raccoons too? I know it's poisonous.

Tina said...

I don't know about toxicity and honey. I assume that even if some poison is ingested by the bees and then passed onto to their honey, that the amounts are so miniscule that it wouldn't matter. They forage from such a wide variety and number of plants, that any questionable "stuff" is...diluted. I'm not sure that's the right word, but it makes sense to me. Some Native Americans used the datura to enhance religious experiences, so maybe the bees have tapped into that knowledge. :)

dryheatblog said...

I like how your's trails along the ground! Not sure how one can know what flowers contribute to a bee's honey unless confined well (or there's a huge planting of mostly one plant nearby)...but that plant's toxicity would deter me. Even if toxins are diluted or non-existent. I've never forgotten my headaches sleeping where I would sleep by my open window above a couple I planted...

Still such a treasured plant for hot gardens.

Travis Heights Garden Mama said...

Beautiful! I have enjoyed seeing datura blooming in the neighborhood- they do so well. Unfortunately I think they are too toxic too have around my chickens- I'd hate to see them hallucinating (which is what datura can do if ingested). :)

Pam/Digging said...

Yes, indeed, well worth the wait. I love this plant, and all of us bloggers seem to be glorying in its beauty here at the end of August (did you see Lori's post?). I'm glad to know, too, that you finally got a good whiff of its fragrance!

TexasDeb said...

Kris: I doubt raccoons would bother the plant itself, though if they are digging around the roots before a young plant became established I suppose that could present problems. I believe this plant would do well where you are - the rare threat here is a deep freeze. The plants get large though not especially tall. I've seen them used to good effect here planted en masses along streetside slopes. The die back to the ground here each winter but might not there. Now I'm really hoping you will get some of these going. I'm really curious to see how they'll perform when annual dieback isn't part of the deal.

TexasDeb said...

Tina: I'm pretty sure you're right about the dilution and toxicity issues. The bees I saw didn't seem to be especially attuned to the Great Spirit but then they were sharing the large blossoms very peacefully. Perhaps the wisdom of each plant they visit becomes their wisdom as well. Honey as wisdom food? Definitely works for me.

TexasDeb said...

David/DHB: That Datura is growing in a bed that fits between a low sidewalk and is backed by a higher slope of the driveway, so as it gets wider each year it starts leaning on or over everything just underneath, including the drive. I like it there especially for that reason. I like how it negotiates the choppiness of that bed and mitigates that visually, once fully extended.

I completely understand your being put off by the headache issue. I get a few allergy headaches from the Live Oak each Spring and every year time it truly interferes with my ability to appreciate those otherwise treasured native trees. If the headaches were year round, well... I'd probably have to move!

(I'm trying to imagine a scenario where we'd be sleeping with windows open in August in Austin. Nope. Can't do it...)

TexasDeb said...

THGM: I'd be leery of livestock around these, as well. I've read ranchers have to remove it because under significant browsing stress livestock eat them and suffer horribly as a result. Pastured horses especially. I can't imagine what a mouthful would do to the smaller nervous system of poultry! They'd be flying high without ever leaving the ground...

TexasDeb said...

Pam: It's interesting to me how distinctly I noticed the fragrance once the number of blooms open at a time reached some previously indeterminate critical mass. I believe the individual plant we have is just not particularly highly perfumed, but the aroma is definitely there. I recall reading in the Wildflower Center database mention of the plant being "rank" in several places, and that does not seem to hold for this plant either. It just doesn't smell much either way - rank or sweet!

August is indeed notable locally for several wonderful highlights in the garden and they are predictably appearing in multiple posts. If we hadn't had such a spectacular number of blooms at once I doubt I'd have brought these particular coals to Newcastle, but I simply couldn't resist.

Rock rose said...

What a great show. I am so jealous of everyone showing off their multiple blooms. I have a very young one in the granite out front and it now has 4 blooms. That is after I watered it when I came home from our trip. I'm hoping for a show like yours next year. So this is a plant that has both night and day pollinators. No wonder it is so successful. By the way the plumerias are doing well but no flowers as yet. Maybe that will be a next year event too.

Debra said...

What a spectacular display! I had that wondering about toxicity to honey bees too since I am growing datura. As one of the very few late summer flowers I was sure the bees would be drawn. From what I've learned, honey made from datura pollen is toxic to people and probably not in a mild 'buzzing' kind of way. The honey isn't normally a problem for the bees themselves though.

TexasDeb said...

RR/Jenny: That Datura plant has been in place since the summer of 2011. This is the first time we've gotten so many flowers at all, much less opening at one time. 4 blooms is more the usual, and the very young ones I have (which I am totally going to go hand water after writing this!) don't seem to want to bloom at all yet. Our plumeria are just beginning to bloom this year, (we got them repotted about a month later than usual) don't give up that ship quite yet.

Next year. I find I'm already looking towards next year garden wise and it isn't quite September!

TexasDeb said...

Debra: Thank you! It was quite exciting to have that many flowers open at once. I've been clipping the spent blooms this year to keep the plant from putting energy into seed pods that aren't necessary in this situation and now I'm wondering if that has anything to do with accelerated bloom production. Next year will tell that tale I suppose.

Happy to know independently the bees aren't in any real jeopardy. I figured they weren't threatened by this native or the bees wouldn't have been fighting over the pollen. The bees know what they can eat... : )

Donna@LivingFromHappiness said...

Definitely a special plant and flower...the bees know!

TexasDeb said...

Donna: The native wisdom of the bees is evident if we'll only attend, yes? Thanks for dropping by.

Rebecca Newcomb said...

My datura was planted smack dab right in the middle of my backyard garden path by some bird or other critter. I've enjoyed it this year, but plan to remove it so it isn't completely blocking the way. It has dropped many seeds from the huge, prickly pods, some of which I've collected to try to plant in other places around the garden, and some of which have dropped into the neighboring flower beds, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll have a couple more plants next season so I can enjoy the beautiful trumpet flowers, and so the evening insects have an additional nectar source to enjoy.

TexasDeb said...

Rebecca: I remember seeing that plant - it is a beauty. I hope you are able to transplant it successfully and that any other volunteers are more respectful of your boundaries. (Smiling as I type that - since WHEN do most pop-ups happen anywhere other than the paths!). Good luck with your seeding projects. I'm looking forward to reading more about that on your blog!