A summer’s walk through Quinta Mazatlán is full of life. Butterflies, from the tiniest Clytie Ministreak to the largest Giant Swallowtail, flit across the paths in dappled light. Plain Chachalacas scamper loudly through the understory and clamber up Anacua trees, searching for fruits to feed their chicks. Great Kiskadees and Green Jays voice their opinions from the verdant canopy of Honey Mesquite, Texas Ebony, and Brasil trees. Bees buzz happily by, off to gather or store pollen.
Behind all this activity, whether bursting with color or subtly blending into the foliage before our eyes, are the flowering plants that power the thornforest and its wildlife. Flowers, just like the plants that bloom them, come in a vast array of sizes, colors, smells, when they open.
Despite making up the majority of the large bushes and small trees at Quinta Mazatlán, common thornforest species like Brasil, Lote Bush, and Granjeno all have tiny flowers. Yet, after being pollinated by bees and flies, the fruits that develop from the flowers fuel thrushes, thrashers, kiskadees, kingbirds, chachalacas, mockingbirds, orioles, and so many others of the Valley’s diverse bird community.
Though plants of smaller size, the wildflowers of Quinta Mazatlán provide plentiful food for six-legged animals — the bees, flies, butterflies, and moths so important for their pollination services. A walk past the restored pollinator meadow in Ebony Grove is a colorful adventure. Yellows burst from Parralena, Huisache Daisy, Cowpen Daisy, Common Sunflower, and Plains Coreopsis. Red, pink, and purple hues radiate from Scarlet Sage, Redwhisker Clammyweed, and Silverleaf Nightshade. White emanates from Prairie Milkweed and Sticky Florestina. Each pollinator seen in the vibrant array proof of restoration at work.
One Quinta Mazatlán’s goals is to serve as an example for creating habitat with native plants (and sustaining all the ecosystem services they provide). In the case of wildflowers, it is as simple as selecting a sunny location, preparing the soil, and scattering seed — plus a little water. For example, if you are wanting less lawn to mow and water, a pollinator patch of wildflowers is a great solution.
First, remove a patch of lawn; this can be done passively by covering it with a tarp or cardboard, or actively with a shovel or other garden tools. Second, loosen the soil to make sure your seeds come into good contact and roots can get a footing. You can do this with a shovel, cultivator, or tiller. Third, scatter seed! Just make sure it is a wildflower native to the region. You can check on what plants are native using the USDA Plants Database or the National Wildlife Federation’s Native Plant Finder. Lastly, make sure to keep your soil moist after seeding it — at least until you start to see your wildflowers germinate and grow.
For more ideas of what native plants you can use for your landscaping project, visit Quinta Mazatlán at 600 Sunset Drive in McAllen. Follow Quinta Mazatlán on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for announcements on programs and special events. Have fun wildscaping your garden!