September 19, 2007

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A young, white-eyed vireo lies in its nest. (Photo by Andy Campomizzi, the Texas A&M University Institute of Renewable Natural Resources)

  Fire ants killing baby song birds at high rates

By Edith Chenault
Texas Cooperative Extension

Red imported fire ants may be killing as many as a fifth of baby song birds before they leave the nest, according to research recently completed at Texas A&M University.

Andy Campomizzi, graduate research assistant in the department of wildlife and fisheries sciences, studied black-capped vireos and white-eyed vireos in Coryell County over a span of two years.

Campomizzi kept records on a total of 72 nests of both species. Of the nests where there was no pesticide treatment, only 10 percent of the young birds fledged and were able to leave the nests. Of the nests with treatment to protect them from fire ants, 32 percent fledged. Nearly 70 percent are lost to other causes, and fire ants knocked the survival rate down an additional 22 percent.

"That was a bigger difference than we thought it would be," he said. "Fire ants were definitely a mortality factor for song birds."

The black-capped vireo — which breeds only in the Edwards Plateau of Texas, a couple of areas in Oklahoma and in northern Mexico — is an endangered species. The white-eyed vireo is found more extensively throughout the southeastern U.S. and is not endangered.

In his research, Campomizzi would find nests with eggs and attach Arinix — a nylon plastic cable wrap developed for use in protecting electrical equipment from fire ants — around branches. Some of the wraps were permeated with permethrin insecticide and some not.

A sticky insect trap coating was applied to the branch on the limbs with the insecticide, so the ants could not get around the trap to the nest, he explained. Nests were isolated so access was limited to one or two routes for the fire ants, he said.

He checked the nests every three or four days. He counted the nest as a success if the adults could raise at least one of their young until it could fly out of the nest, which takes about 10 to 12 days from hatching.

Campomizzi believes fire ant predation may occur among any song bird species, although mortality rates would vary depending upon local populations of the red imported fire ant and how close to the ground the birds were nesting.

Management for black-capped vireos is ongoing on both public and private land, he said.

"Current management includes providing breeding habitat and removing brownheaded cowbirds, a brood parasite," Campomizzi said.

Land managers interested in improving black-capped vireo habitat may want to consider managing fire ants around nesting areas to increase the chances that they can successfully raise their young. This will perhaps contribute to the species’ recovery from being endangered, he said.

The research was funded by the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources.

Gaillardia (Gaillardia grandiflora) is a native plant to the Texas plains, and a beautiful, naturalizing flower for water-wise gardeners. (Photo by Robert Dailey)
  Low water use plants add beauty to Texas gardens

By Robert Dailey
Freelance Writer

At one time, a waterwise gardener had a limited number of plants to choose from. Not so now. Because of the burgeoning popularity of waterwise gardening, a large variety of low-water-use plants from around the world have become readily available at nurseries.

These plants are colorful and many of them fragrant as well. While you may use many of your old favorites in your oasis garden, you now have great choices for the transitional zone and arid zones of your garden.

Here are some plants that are perfect for transition zones of your waterwise garden. Although they require infrequent and irregular watering, they do require some water.

Deciduous Plants

  • Western Catalpa
  • Native Chokecherry
  • Gambel Oak
  • Flowering Locust varieties
  • Littleleaf Linden


  • Bosnian Pine
  • Limber Pine
  • Austrian Black Pine
  • Southwest White Pine
  • Scotch Pine


  • Utah Serviceberry
  • Pygmy Peashrub
  • Siberian Peashrub
  • Bluemist Spirea
  • Chinese Juniper
  • Littleleaf Mockorange
  • Mugo Pine varieties
  • Water Ash
  • Shrub Live Oak
  • Austrian Copper Rose
  • Woods’ Rose
  • Silver Buffaloberry
  • Common Lilac and hybrids
  • Chinese Lilac


  • Silvery Yarrow
  • Tall Yarrow
  • Moonshine Yarrow
  • Double bubblemint
  • Perennial Hollyhock
  • Pasque Flower
  • Silver anthemis
  • Porter’s Aster
  • Chocolate flower
  • Bearded Iris
  • Lavender varieties
  • Poppy Mallow
  • Perennial bachelor’s button
  • Tickseed
  • Threadleaf Coreopsis
  • Blanket Flower
  • Sunrose
  • Coral Bells
  • Candytuft
  • Sea Lavender
  • Blue flax

For more information on waterwise plants, visit

Originally published on

  Gardening tips

"Most plant diseases (except for powdery mildew) spread in damp, humid conditions so avoid working on plants in wet weather," writes Bill Stevens. "When you do find diseased plants, pull them up and trash or burn them to avoid passing the condition along to healthy plants."

Have a favorite gardening tip you’d like to share? Texas Gardener’s Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here’s a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

One of the joys of planting a garden is to create an outdoor space where you can relax. Many gardeners seem to overlook this. Great gardens are not made in a moment but often take years. So, try to enjoy the process as your garden evolves as much as the finished results. That will remind you that your garden is a pleasure and all the hard work is very worthwhile.


  Upcoming garden events

Amarillo: Potter/Randall County Master Gardeners will share gardening education during the upcoming Tri State Fair, September 14 to September 22, by distributing hundreds of handouts, answering gardening questions and helping organize and host the Garden and Agronomy Show. The best and biggest vegetables and melons are awarded ribbons and cash prizes in more than 52 categories.

Tomball: Mary Herr explains how to incorporate roses into every bed in your garden when she teaches "Landscaping with Roses," Saturday, September 22 at 10 a.m. at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Tom Leroy, Montgomery County extension agent, and Bill Adam, extension agent emeritus, teach "Fall Vegetable Gardening," Sunday, September 23 at 1 p.m., at Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Brownwood: Brown County will host a Texas Cooperative Extension multi-county pecan tour on September 26. The day will start with registration at 9:30 a.m. at the Brownwood Pecan Field Station, 701 CC Woodson Road. The tour will last from 10 a.m. until noon. Two Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units will be offered. "This has been an interesting year for pecan management," said Scott Anderson, Extension agent in Brown County. "All the rain we’ve been having has been great, but it has sure created some interesting challenges for our area’s pecan growers. During the tour, we will see some definite differences in pecan varieties and in the susceptibility of varieties to pecan scab disease, one of our worst wet-weather-related problems." Tommy Thompson, pecan specialist at the field station, will be the program speaker. The program is sponsored by Extension offices in Brown, Mills and San Saba counties. The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Anderson at 325-646-0386, or

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association “Hidden Gardens Tour & Fall Plant Sale” will be held Saturday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Hidden Gardens Tour and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Fall Plant Sale at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Get your tickets and maps at Green Acres for this one-day event in addition to purchasing those much-wanted plants that you can’t find anywhere. The maps will lead you to wonderful Hidden Gardens in both Aransas County and San Patricio County. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres, which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. Admission is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets and/or questions contact the Aransas County Texas Cooperative Extension, Rockport, at (361) 790-0103.

Nacogdoches: The annual Fabulous Fall Festival plant sale at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Mast Arboretum will be from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, October 6, at the intramural field on Wilson Drive, Nocogdoches. A great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous perennials, and grasses will be available. Staples of the fall sale include asters, garden mums, and sages, as well as several outstanding varieties of ornamental grasses. Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, will have a wide range of native trees available including oaks, pines, red maple, and black walnut, with fall being the best time to establish trees. There will be a number of hard to find items including native and hybrid coral bean, crinum lilies, the rare Brazoria sabal palm, the new hybrid coneflowers, variegated sky vine, giant Farfugium, and the rare Hibiscus hamabo. They will also offer a line of drought resistant plants like snake herb, wooly stemodia, bamboo muhly grass and heliotrope. Proceeds from the plant sale help support the SFA Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center, and educational programs. For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit

Lewisville: The Denton County Master Gardener Association Garden InfoFest will be held Saturday, October 6, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Upper Trinity Regional Water District, 900 N. Kealy Ave. Gardening seminars, educational demonstrations, plant sale, garden shopping, tour of gardens, children’s activities. Admission is free. For more information, call (940) 349-2883, or visit

Fort Worth, Dallas: Visit America’s very best, rarely seen, Private Gardens. The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program has been opening the gates to America’s best private gardens since 1995. The 2007 season features more than 350 gardens across 21 states. Learn about gardens participating in your area through the Open Days Directory, an annual publication listing open gardens with garden descriptions, open dates and hours, and directions. To purchase a Directory or for more information, call (888) 842-2442 or visit The $5 admission fee supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy’s work of preserving exceptional American gardens such Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. 2007 Texas Open Days: Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

Belton, Temple, Killeen: The Bell County Master Gardener Association will host the Fall Glory garden tour Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens in Belton, Temple and Killeen will be showcased. Admission is $5 for adults. For additional information, contact Sue Morgan at (254) 698-8668.

St. Francisville, La.: The 2007 Southern Garden Symposium will be held October 26 and 27 in St. Francisville, La. Friday workshops held at Afton Villa Gardens include "Creating Interior Focal Points through Floral Design," led by Dr. James DelPrince; "Pruning for Plant Health," led by Martha Hill; "21st Century Gardening: Plants, Products and Practices," led by Nellie Neal; and "Timeless Tips for Fool Proof Landscapes," led by Mary Palmer and Hugh Dargan. The Friday evening cocktail buffet will be held at Live Oak Plantation. Saturday lectures held at Hemingbough include "Hot New Flowers and Captivating Combinations," led by Norman Winter; "Furnishings for the Garden: 1750-1900," led by H. Parrot Bacot; and "Garden Design Inspirations: Seeing Art Design Elements in Nature and Applying them to Southern Garden Designs," led by Edward C. Martin. $60 per person, per day admission includes lunch. Admission to the Friday evening cocktail buffet is $35 per person. For registration and additional information, contact Lucie Cassity at (225) 635-3738 or write to Southern Garden Symposium, P.O. Box 2075, St. Francisville, LA 70775.

Waco: The Texas Gourd Society presents its 12th annual Lone Star Gourd Festival October 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave., Waco. Featured will be gourd artists and crafters, demonstrations, seminars and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 are free. For additional information, visit

Independence: The Antique Rose Emporium at 10,000 FM 50 in Independence will host their 20th Fall Festival of Roses November 2 through 4. Speakers, who will present a variety of garden related topics, include Dave Wittenger, Dave’s Garden Web; Stephen Scaniello, Heritage Rose Foundation; and Chris Carley, National Arboretum Horticulturist. All seminars are free to the public. Old Garden roses, including Earthkind and Pioneer Roses, herbs, perennials, and Texas natives will be available for sale. For additional information, visit or call (979) 836-5548.

New Braunfels: Hill Country Orchid Society’s "Wurst Orchid Show & Sale" will take place Saturday and Sunday, November 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the New Braunfels Elks Lodge, 353 S. Seguin, New Braunfels. Admission is free. For more information, call (830) 629-2083.

Waco: Many composers have been inspired by the sounds of nature, and the Waco Symphony Orchestra will present three inspired compositions Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (Pastorale), Copland’s "An Outdoor Adventure" and Respighi’s "Pines of Rome" — in "Musical Landscapes," an all-orchestral celebration of the out-of-doors on Thursday, November 15. The concert, held in Waco Hall on the Baylor University campus in Waco, begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets go on sale October 1 and may be purchased by phoning (254) 754-0851 or on-line at

Galveston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens at the sixth annual Festival of Lights November 17 through January 5. This whimsical celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 17, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Festival of Lights is celebrated Thursday through Sunday November 17 through December 16, and daily beginning December 17. Transforming its lush tropical garden setting into a winter wonderland, Moody Gardens will be adorned with more than a million twinkling lights and dozens of light displays. In addition to experiencing the lights, guests can also strap on a pair of skates and glide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink at Moody Gardens. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or even gaze upon a giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will feature a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Three films will be playing at the IMAX 3D theater and two films will be playing at the Ridefilm theater. The Garden Restaurant will feature a delectable holiday buffet, offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group rates of $20 per person are also available for groups of 20 or more, and include admission to Festival of Lights and the holiday buffet. Admission into the Festival of Lights is $5.95, and tickets to additional attractions including the Rainforest Pyramid, holiday IMAX 3D film, holiday Ridefilm, Outdoor Ice Rink and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, can be purchased for only $4.00 each. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673 or visit

Lake Jackson: For several years John Panzarella has hosted a citrus tasting and open house in his backyard, 404 Forest Drive, Lake Jackson, which is about 50 miles south of Houston. The next open house will be Saturday, December 15 from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Taste 40 to 50 citrus varieties and see different varieties of fruit trees. Panzarella has approximately 200 different varieties of citrus, 50% to 70% fruiting, plus several varieties of persimmon, sapote, guava, pawpaw, loquat, pomegranate, avocado, papaya, fig, peach, passion fruit, mango and pecan trees growing in his backyard. You are invited to visit, taste the citrus, and see one of the largest citrus collections in the state of Texas and the largest collection north of the Texas Rio Grand valley. See the giant Panzarella orange and the giant 10 lb. Panzarella cluster lemons. You will also have the opportunity to view a multi-grafted tree which has grapefruits, tangerines and oranges growing on it. For more information, call (979) 297-2120, e-mail, or visit

Houston: Urban Harvest Fruit Tree Sale will be held Saturday, January 19, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. A class describing all varieties for sale, as well as providing vital information on how to plant and care for each type tree will be held January 5 and 12 (your choice), from 2 to 4 p.m. A nominal fee of $10 is charged for the class. Register for the class by calling Urban Harvest. Sale and classes at Emerson Unitarian Church, 1900 Bering Dr., Houston. For detailed information about the sale as well as about fruit trees, check the Urban Harvest website

Garland: The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at a new eco-farm in Kilgore. If there is enough interest, we will also start a Sunday afternoon monthly meeting. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member’s homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas Cooperative Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. Our guest speaker for September 20 is Susan Jaime of Lazarus Coffee. Susan will discuss organic coffee, how it is grown, harvested and roasted. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, she will also discuss her visits to South American coffee farmers. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization’s events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.

  Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard with welcoming landscapes  

Roll out the welcome mat for butterflies and hummingbirds. In this lavishly illustrated book, author Sally Roth reveals the secrets for creating irresistible gardens and welcoming landscapes that lure these amazing creatures up close and personal.

 $18.09 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener’s Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of September and we’ll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener’s Seeds
is published weekly. © Suntex Communications, Inc. 2007. All rights reserved. You may forward this publication to your friends and colleagues if it is sent in its entirety. No individual part of this newsletter may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.

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