REACHING OUT

Published by Houston Chapter on

By: Angela Roth

My first exposure to Texas native plants was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  Jaime Gonzalez shared a gorgeous array of gay feather, purple coneflower, coreopsis, and other prairie plants. These living art works were a mind opener for me. I had never considered why growing natives was so important. Honestly, I had never heard of a “native” plant and the only prairies I had heard of were on television. My experience up until then was going to nurseries and buying whatever looked the most interesting. Some of them were native plants, I just didn’t register what that meant to the environment and, truly, to our own survival.

Realizing the part these tough plants play in pollination started to creep into my consciousness. I love birds, butterflies and insects – I even see the benefit of wilder things like possums and snakes – but I never thought about how they survived. While some are omnivores, others, like the monarch butterfly, have only one species their caterpillars can eat. It is unfortunate that so many of our native plants have the word “weed” in their common name. It seems to discount their worth from the very beginning. Instead of hearing, “Asclepias,” we hear “weed.”

As I train to become a Texas Gulf Coast Master Naturalist, I know that I will continue to learn, every day. I want to share that knowledge with as many people as possible. None of us has to have all the answers, just the willingness to find out more information. With so many communication tools available to us, we have the ability to share what we learn and help educate the next generations.

Being the person to open the doors for others to see what is and could be more around us is a gift. Jaime Gonzalez has shared with hundreds of people, probably thousands when you factor in Zoom, etc. Each of us has our own talents and can engage the currently unknowing and possible uncaring public to make caring for our native flora and fauna our highest priority. The more each of us reaches out, the more connections to the Natural World we make, the more improved will be our environment. Teach those children, engage those adults who don’t have time to garden until you share with them how natives can truly grow themselves if given a chance.

I have seen all my decades of gardening evolve from growing ornamentals and food crops on various continents, attending flower shows in England, and growing exotics, to now growing over 50% native plants in my garden. I expect that percentage to increase as I age. Once introduced to these beautiful and hardy plants, people will begin to figure out their best interests in saving time and money, not to mention saving the pollinators, is to grow native plants!