BRIEF OVERVIEW OF NATURAL HISTORY, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL ASPECTS OF THE DRIVE FROM NEW ORLEANS TO GRAND ISLE, PORT FOURCHON, AND ELMER’S ISLAND, LOUISIANA
By Robert A. Thomas, Loyola Center for Environmental Communication, School of Communication & Design, Loyola University New Orleans, & Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater New Orleans (email@example.com, 504-865-2107)
This past week, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras trees (Arbor carnivalense) suddenly burst into full bloom, becoming
festooned with bright colors that sparkle in the sunlight.
This species seems to occur predominately along parade routes (or, do we route our parades along streets
April is the month of horizon-to-horizon yellow in fields and roadsides throughout our region. Yellow catches the eye during a drive past City Park on Robert E. Lee Boulevard, and an otherwise boring trip (ahem, for the non-naturalist, that is) to Shreveport on I-49 exposes one to vast stretches of the culprit – Hairy Buttercup, Ranunculus sardous. The same is true for all the birders making their pilgrimages to Grand Isle and other sites “down da bayou.”
Something that all naturalists experience is finding a species that they don't know. For the average person, it is impossible to know all of nature, and my challenge, and one of my loves, is plants.
I've walked the boardwalk at Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station, Southeastern Louisiana University's facility on Main Pass near Manchac, many times.
Our Smallest Native Plant Floating Commuinities
1: The Lemnaceae
by Bob Thomas
Louisiana is blessed with wonderful biodiversity at all levels. We tend to move through our wetlands and focus on the largest species, but by simply stopping, kneeling by the water, and looking closely at what might be floating on its surface, a whole new botanical world opens.
From early to late spring, the delta country is alive with fields of yellow. There is a succession of species with yellow flowers, but there are habitat, floral, and temporal differences. These characteristics are not always apparent to the novice, but a seasoned naturalist may easily identify the different species, even at 70 mph on the interstate!
Red Maple, Acer rubrum, is a native species that has crossed the line and become one of the most popular trees chosen for yards. Their horticultural advantages are that they are fast growing and are deciduous, so the leaves give shade on hot summer days, yet allow warming sunlight through during cool winter periods. Other wonderful features include their winter/early spring red flowers and buds, followed by showy red samaras, their winged “helicopter” seeds. In fall, they are again showy when their leaves turn brilliant red to
All New Orleanians know that the late winter-very early spring transition is the time when a number of our favored urban horticultural species and more rural native trees flower brilliantly. For the most part their flowering occurs before they produce leaves.
Sometimes its just fun to put a name on something everybody has in his yard. This is a quick discussion of Chamber Bitter (Phyllanthus urinaria) and Mascarene Islands Leaf Flower (Phyllanthus tenellus).
These plants are among the most common weeds in flowerbeds and yards in the New Orleans region. There is a tradeoff for their annoying abundance – they pull up by the roots very easily, and that is nice.