Category Archives: Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: Facts About the Bald Cypress

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There are many cypress trees in Covington, but how much do we really know about them? Learn more about Louisiana’s State Tree here!

Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, is a deciduous conifer native to the southeastern United States in the family Cupressaceae. This is a conifer family with worldwide distribution and includes junipers and redwoods. There are 130 – 140 species total in the family.

The genus Taxodium are native to North America. The generic name is derived from the Latin word taxus, meaning “yew”, and the Greek word εἶδος (eidos), meaning “similar to.” Taxodium species grow pneumatophores, or cypress knees, when growing in or beside water. The function of these knees is currently a subject of ongoing research.

The bald cypress was designated the official state tree of Louisiana in 1963. Some consider it to be a symbol of the southern swamps of the United States.

Common names include bald cypress, baldcypress, swamp cypress, white cypress, tidewater red cypress, gulf cypress and red cypress.

Bald cypress in French is cyprès chauve.

The native range extends from southeastern New Jersey south to Florida and west to East Texas and southeastern Oklahoma, and also inland up the Mississippi River.

Ancient bald cypress forests, with some trees more than 1,700 years old, once dominated swamps in the Southeast. The largest remaining old-growth stands are at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, near Naples, Florida, and in the Three Sisters tract along eastern North Carolina’s Black River. The Black River trees were cored by dendrochronologist David Stahle from the University of Arkansas. He found that some began growing as early as 364 AD.

In 2012 scuba divers discovered an underwater cypress forest several miles off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, in 60 feet of water. The forest contains trees that could not be dated with radiocarbon methods, indicating that they are more than 50,000 years old and thus most likely lived in the early glacial interval of the last ice age. The cypress forest is well preserved, and when samples are cut they still smell like fresh cypress.

It typically grows to heights of 35–120 feet (10–40 m) and has a trunk diameter of 3–6 feet (0.9–1.8 m). The tallest known specimen, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is 44.11 m (145 ft) tall, and the stoutest known, in the Real County near Leaky, Texas, has a diameter at breast height of 475 in (39 ft).

This species is monoecious, with male and female flowers on a single plant forming on slender, tassel-like structures near the edge of branchlets. The tree flowers in April and the seeds ripen in October.

In good conditions, bald cypress grows fairly fast when young, then more slowly with age. Trees have been measured to reach 3 m in five years, 21 m in 41 years, and 36 m in height in 96 years; height growth has largely ceased by the time the trees are 200 years old.

National Champion Bald Cypress at Cat Island

The National Champion Bald Cypress is recognized as the largest member of its species in the country and is listed as such on the National Register of Champion Trees by American Forest. The National Champion Bald Cypress is in the Cat Island Nation Wildlife Refuge, near St. Francisville, Louisiana, and it is 83 feet tall with an 85-foot spread, a diameter of 16.5 feet and a girth of 49 feet. It is estimated to be approximately 1,500 years old.

Oldest living bald cypress at Three Sisters Swamp
in North Carolina,
the oldest bald cypress swamp in the world

The oldest known living specimen, found along the Black River in North Carolina, is at least 2,624 years old, rendering it the oldest living tree in eastern North America.

Bald cypress cones don’t actually look like cones at all. Their cone structure is round and about one inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter. When cones appear in autumn, they are tough and green, but they become woody as the season progresses. Each cone is made of a number of scales, and each scale is associated with two triangular seeds. Seeds are eaten by wild turkey, wood ducks, evening grosbeak, water birds, and squirrels.

The lumber is valuable for building construction, fence posts, planking in boats, river pilings, doors, blinds, flooring, shingles, garden boxes, caskets, interior trim and cabinetry. In virgin stands, yields from 112 to 196 m³/ha were common, and some stands may have exceeded 1,000 m³/ha. The odorless wood, which closely resembles that of other Cupressus species, has long been valued for its resistance to water.

Box made from sinker cypress

Still usable prehistoric wood is often found in swamps as far north as New Jersey, and occasionally as far north as Connecticut, although it is more common in the southeastern states. The density of the wood causes the logs to sink rather than float, allowing it to sit underwater for years to petrify, and leading to the common name ‘sinker cypress’. This partially mineralized wood is harvested from swamps in the southeastern states, and is greatly prized for special uses such as for carvings.

The bald cypress was used by Native Americans to create coffins, homes, drums and canoes.

The fungus Lauriliella taxodii causes a specific form of the wood called “pecky cypress”, which is used for decorative wall paneling.

Bald cypress logging and trade is historically an integral part of Louisiana economy, particularly between 1700 – 1960. French “swampers” traditionally would log by hand, securing enormous trees to rafts and transporting them on land by horse or oxen.

Interest in bald cypress as a landscape tree is considerable. Many landscape horticulturists use this tree in their plantings, and it is one of the top five tree species planted in Louisiana.

A botanical variety of bald cypress called pond cypress (Taxodium distichum var. nutans) has finer-textured foliage than bald cypress and is more upright. Foliage color can be attractive with new growth in spring, and most trees have rusty brown fall foliage that lingers into early to mid-December in south Louisiana.

Montezuma cypress is another variety to consider planting, but these are not as readily available at Louisiana garden centers. These bald cypress relatives have no knees.

Bald cypress provide a number of great benefits to the landscape. So consider adding Louisiana’s state tree to your landscape. September through November is a great time to plant one.


Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: the Pecan Tree, a Southern Tradition

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by Chelsea Cochrane

Pecan tree orchard with autumn leaves

The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of hickory native to the Mississippi River region and into northern Mexico. These majestic trees can grow 100 – 140 feet tall and can live as long as 300 years. Many old and young trees can be spotted in the Covington area, some remnants of the vast pecan groves and orchards that once speckled the South.

Its not an event without mini pecan pies!

Pecans are certainly a staple of southern living, a necessity in several baking recipes and an all-around healthy snack. Texas named the pecan the state’s official “health nut”, as well as the state tree, and pecan pie the state’s official pie. They’re a little nuts about pecans, but they’re not the only ones – the pecan is also the state nut of Arkansas and Alabama, and one of California’s four state nuts (don’t even talk to them about nuts). There’s a reason everyone loves pecans – besides being delicious, they’re good for you too, benefiting blood cholesterol levels, rich in vitamins, and containing high levels of antioxidants.

To see what all the hype is about, you’ll have to understand that pecans once played a large role in southern economics, and are still a major trade today. The only edible major tree nut native to North America, its use can be traced back to 16th century Native American cultivation and trade. The name “pecan” comes from the Algonquin word “pacane” meaning “nuts requiring a stone to crack”. Pecans became a large part of Native culture and were even used as a form of currency for a time.

Pecans are among the most recently domesticated major crops, first cultivated commercially in the 1840’s here in Louisiana. A black slave by the name of Antoine at the Oak Alley Plantation was the first to successfully graft a wild cultivar, creating an improved variety for propagation and thus budding the pecan industry. Pecans quickly grew in popularity and spread across the nation, from coast to coast and as far east as New York. To this day the US is still the largest producer of pecans, boasting 300 million pounds per year.

From the USDA: “Almonds and pecans are the major tree nut crops produced in the United States, followed by pistachios and walnuts. More than 98 percent of the acreage in almonds, pistachios, and walnuts is found in California. Seventy-four percent of the pecan tree acreage is in three states — Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia. The pecan acreage includes both native and improved tree varieties. The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows there are 1.86 million acres of tree nuts in the United States.”

from the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture

Pecans aren’t actually nuts

Still green “fruit” of the pecan tree

Not to burst anyone’s bubble (especially Texas) but the pecan is not actually a nut. Often classified in the somewhat indistinct realm of “edible nuts”, pecans join pistachios, cashews, almonds and walnuts in the also hazy “drupe” or stone fruit classification. This distinction is made because unlike true nuts that contain both the fruit and the seed of the plant, drupes are fruit containing a hard-shelled seed within. Apricots, peaches, plums and cherries are also examples of drupes, just ones where we eat the fruit rather than the seed! The lines between classifying drupes and berries gets a little fuzzier, and has caused some arguments and long-standing grudges in the scientific community. Isn’t botany fun?

Pecans in Covington

Pecans can adapt to a variety of environments but thrive in full sun, warmer climates and sandy well-drained soil, making the Mississippi and adjoining rivers an ideal habitat. The Port of New Orleans became the main exporter of these southern-loving trees, whose soft wood also gained popularity in fine furniture making and in cooking, as a flavor enhancer for smoked meats like other types of hickory. Pecan orchards and maintained groves began popping up everywhere in the south.

Many older Covington natives can remember large groves of pecans along the river and around Claiborne Hill. The Alexius family owned a track of land on Three Rivers Road dubbed “Alexiusville” that was home to vast pecan groves as well. If you look around downtown you will find some magnificent older trees that are still producing. You may even have one in your backyard!

Caring for your Pecan Tree

If you are lucky enough to have one of these big beauties then you know one tree can provide an incredible amount of fruit. Pecans are slow to produce, often taking 10 – 15 years to mature from seedling. A single pecan tree in its 10th growing season can produce 50 lbs, while a more mature tree into its 15th season or more can drop over 100 lbs of pecans! Most of these will be eaten by squirrels however, if you aren’t quick.

Many variety are alternate-bearing, meaning that they will produce heavily one year and then very little the next year, or in some cases next several years. This can be helped sometimes with extra fertilizing. Trees will deplete much more nutrients on heavy-bearing years and need time to catch back up. Zinc is a common additive to help pecans produce a strong harvest.

photo by Carol M Highsmith of Texas pecan farmer

Learn more about pecans at the National Pecan Shellers Association’s website!

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: Goldenrod and Ragweed – Friend or Foe?

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by Chelsea Cochrane

It seems like every season is allergy season for something in the South, especially in our particularly sub-tropical region of it. The fall allergens combined with the change in temps seem to hit me the hardest for some reason. Like many people do, I would see the bright yellow plumes of goldenrod flowers and assume that they were to blame for my distress.

Such a shame that these golden beauties get such a bad rap! Their only fault is they happen to share a season with the less conspicuous ragweed. It’s easy to see how the confusion is made – the tiny brightly-colored flowers seem like they would harbor mini pollen bombs waiting for a good breeze. Actually, goldenrod has a thick, sappy pollen that is adapted for insect pollination and does not become airborne. This is opposed to the wind-blown ragweed pollen, adapted to travel hundreds of miles to coat your car and sinuses.

Goldenrods are actually a genus of about 100 to 120 species of flowering plants called Solidagos. Part of the aster family, Asteraceae, most goldenrods are native to North America, with a few South American and European species. According to the U.S. Geological Survey there are at least 13 species of goldenrod found in southern Louisiana. The most common may be the Louisiana goldenrod, Solidago ludoviciana, which can grow to 5 feet and produce as many as 140 flowers per plant.

Goldenrod has many beneficial aspects. As most species are fall bloomers, and heavy bloomers at that, goldenrods serve as some of the last food sources before winter for our pollinating insect friends. Many cultures praise goldenrod for having various medicinal benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and mild pain-relieving effects, and even kidney and bladder cleansing properties. Through several studies by the European Medicines Agency on goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea), non-clinical data shows diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, analgesic and spasmolytic, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer and immunomodulatory activity. Add this to its showy golden blooms and you can see why some people consider the goldenrod lucky and feature it in their gardens.

Ragweed is also a member of the aster family in the genus Ambrosia, of which there are about 50 species. It is native to southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico and distributed heavily across tropical and subtropical regions. The most common ragweed species in North America is Ambrosia artemisiifolia. The Greek name Ambrosia translates to “food or drink of immortality/the gods”.

Ragweed is believed to heal many ailments and was widely used in Native American medicine. Surprisingly, it is most well known for its astringent qualities in the treatment of hay fever. According to King’s American Dispensatory, 1898, ragweed is used for “excessive irritation of mucous membranes…with free mucous discharge” of the nose, throat, mouth, urethra, and bowels. The pharmaceutical industry has even caught on to the use of ragweed to treat allergy symptoms, developing a Ragweed Sublingual Immunotherapy Liquid extract (RW-SAIL) for individuals suffering from chronic allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, from their ragweed allergies.

common ragweed

So in conclusion, I would say both plants have their purpose, although both can become invasive if left untended. But as far as allergies go, pull the ragweed before the goldenrod. And maybe make it into a tea.

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: Mexican Primrose-Willow

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Mexican Primrose-willow growing wild along the Trace behind Lola’s Restaurant, Covington, LA

You may have spotted this plant growing wild along ditches and woodlines, its bright yellow flowers standing out against dark green narrow leaves, with crimson highlights along its branches and stems. Blooming this time of year, its flowers resemble those of the buttercup, or the closely related evening primrose.

Bob Peterson; Jupiter Ridge Natural Area, Jupiter, FL

The Mexican primrose-willow (Ludwigia octovalvis) is an adaptable wildflower found in Central America, Australia, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and the Central-West African regions. It is considered invasive in some Pacific Islands. Here in the US it is prolific in the southeastern region. It is a perennial deciduous shrub in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae), growing 3 – 6 feet tall.

A water-lover, the Mexican primrose-willow can be found along muddy embankments or floating in adjacent or shallow waters. For this reason it is cultivated as an aquatic plant. It is also called a narrow-leaf water primrose.

Mexican Primrose-willow or Water Primrose growing in a shallow pond by John Robert McPherson, 7th Brigade Park, Australia

Ludwigia octovalvis – a Drink to Longevity?

Mexican Primrose-willow has long been toted for its medicinal uses in indigenous cultures, specifically for its purported anti-aging effects. A study done on fruit flies and lab mice showed significant promise to this effect, noting the plants’ “high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, which possess strong DPPH radical scavenging activity”.

Other studies indicate that the digestive enzyme inhibitors from Ludwigia octovalvis can be beneficial in treatments for obesity and diabetes. The Mexican primrose-willow is also known for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties, as well as its use as a gastrointestinal aid and as a diuretic, of which many studies have been done.

Farmers Market Recipes Flora of Covington

Farmers Market Recipe: Pan-Fried Chanterelle Mushrooms

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A culinary favorite, chanterelle season is highly anticipated by chefs around the world. Full of rich flavor reminiscent of apricots, the golden chanterlles are probably the most sought after, although the rarer red cinnabar with its slightly spicy flavor is a close second. Chanterelle is actually a generic name applied to a variety of edible wild mushrooms. They cannot be cultivated and are wild harvested when in season, from mid-summer into fall depending on conditions. The name chanterelle originates from the Greek kantharos meaning “tankard” or “cup”.

Because of their high water content chanterelles are not ideal for batter-frying. You wouldn’t want to mask their great flavor anyway! Here’s our favorite recipe for chanterelles – quick, easy, and truly accentuates these delicious mushrooms. Quickly removing their moisture in a hot skillet gives you crisp, flavorful mushrooms that are excellent on their own, added to salads, or as a topping for a filet of your choice.

Another great cast iron skillet recipe!

Pan-Fried Chanterelle Mushrooms


  • 1 pound fresh chanterelles, rinsed, brushed off and patted dry
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons each rosemary & thyme


  • Pre-heat skillet on high.
  • Add chanterelles with a little salt & pepper.
  • Toss occasionally until excess water has evaporated, 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Add butter and toss until mushrooms soak up most of the butter.
  • Then add garlic and herbs, toss until fragrant, 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Remove from pan and allow to cool slightly before serving.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference:

Raw chanterelle mushrooms are 90% water, 7% carbohydrates, including 4% dietary fiber, 1.5% protein, and have negligible fat. A 100 gram reference amount of raw chanterelles supplies 38 kilocalories of food energy and the B vitamins, niacin and pantothenic acid, in rich content (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV), 27% DV of iron, with moderate contents (10-1 of riboflavin, manganese, and potassium (table). When exposed to sunlight, raw chanterelles produce a rich amount of vitamin D2 (35% DV) – also known as ergocalciferol.

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: Gardenia, a Symbol of Love

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The gardenia is a common and adored feature in southern landscapes, making this non-native plant one of LSU’s Southern heritage plants. Its love for acidic soil and humid, sub-tropical regions makes the gardenia an excellent choice for most Covington properties, especially along the river. Best known for its showy, incredibly fragrant flowers, there are many varieties that adapt readily to our environment.

Gardenias are flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae, also known as the coffee family. The gardenia genus consists of approximately 140 species native to the tropical and sub-tropical climates of Africa, Asia, Madagascar and the Pacific Islands.

An evergreen with rich, dark glossy leaves, the gardenia is grown for its beautiful foliage as well as its flowers. Leaves are opposite or in whorls of three or four, eventually opening into a singular or small cluster of blooms mid-spring through mid-summer.

Gardenia flowers have a tubular-based corolla with 5–12 lobe-petals, ranging from 2 to 4.7 inches in diameter. Most varieties have highly fragrant white blooms, some with variations of light yellow. In contrast to its hardy leaves, gardenia flowers tend to be very delicate and will brown quickly in heavy rain. Most plants prefer bright, indirect light.

Some Quick Fun Facts About Gardenias:

In eastern Asia the gardenia fruit is used as a yellow dye for fabric and food; in traditional Chinese medicine it is used for its clearing, calming, and cooling properties.

In France, gardenias are the flower traditionally worn by men as boutonnière.

The genus was named by Carl Linnaeus and John Ellis after Dr. Alexander Garden (1730–1791), a Scottish-born American botanist, zoologist and physician of Charleston, South Carolina.

Sigmund Freud remarked to the poet H.D. that gardenias were his favorite flower.

Gardenia flowers are associated with purity, clarity, and love. In some cultures the gift of gardenias signifies secret or untold love. It is revered in most all cultures as a symbol of beauty and loveliness.

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Azaleas

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Azaleas are an ornamental favorite across the globe – lightly scented flowers come in an array of colors and variations. These bushes are very common in Covington landscaping, with many different varieties found here in downtown. Chances are, either you or a neighbor has one in your yard. They are part of the Rhododendron genus, in the Heath family Ericaceae. Here are some little known facts about Azaleas.

  • The name Azalea comes from Greek azaleos, meaning “dry”. According to Online Etymology Dictionary “azalea”, noun, is from 1753, Modern Latin, coined by Linnaeus from the fem. of Greek azaleos “dry,” related to azein “to dry up,” probably from PIE root *as- “to burn, glow.”
  • Azaleas, also known as “Royalty of the Garden,” are in the same family as heathers, heaths and blueberries. This is a large family, with 4250 known species spread across 124 genera, found most commonly in acidic and infertile growing conditions. Azaleas grow best on sandy banks in the shade of large trees.
  • There is some speculation as to where azaleas originated. The common consensus is that azaleas had established themselves in both the Old & New Worlds, the Asian and North American continents, before human habitation. The first mention of azalea comes from a Japanese poem from 759 CE. It is theorized that Buddhist monks may have brought azaleas to China and other parts of Asia.
  • In the early to mid 1800’s azaleas were primarily considered an aristocratic plant – only grown in lush greenhouses, at least here in the US. The azalea wasn’t introduced as an outdoor plant until the 1840’s when John Grimke Drayton imported the plants for use in his estate garden, Magnolia Gardens, in Charleston, North Carolina.
  • Azalea festivals are celebrated in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and several cities in the United States. Mobile, Alabama is home to the Azalea Trail, a path planted with hundreds of varieties of azaleas, and an annual Mobile Azalea Trail Festival.
  • Azaleas are highly toxic – both the leaves and nectar contain a neurotoxin called andromedotoxin. Honey produced strictly from the Azalea/Rhododendron nectar is called “mad honey”, and was used to defeat an invading army in Turkey, according to the ancient Roman historian Pliny the Elder.
  • Because of there once well known toxicity, receiving a bouquet of azaleas and rhododendrons in a black vase was understood as a death threat.
  • Plant enthusiasts have selectively bred azaleas for hundreds of years. There are somewhere around 10,000 different cultivars of azaleas propagated for beauty and adaptability. Hybridizations have been created for pattern modifications, dwarf varieties, and to extend or alter blooming seasons.
  • Azalea flowers come in white, pink, mauve, purple, red, orange and yellow in color, and the single varieties generally have 5 petals, but doubles can have up to 30. Some bushes grow up to 8 – 10 feet tall. Telling rhododendrons and azaleas apart can be tricky – one easy way is to count the stamens. An azalea has five stamens while a rhododendron has ten.
  • Under the right growing conditions azaleas are very long-lived. According to the Azalea Society of America, some are hundreds of years old. A Chinese province claims to have the world’s oldest azalea — 262 years old, with a 28-inch diameter trunk.
Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: the Southern Magnolia

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Our iconic image of the South would be incomplete without the inclusion of the Southern magnolia. Known scientifically as Magnolia grandiflora, it certainly lives up to its name with giant white blooms measuring up to a foot in diameter. Its flowers stand in stark contrast to large dark green glossy foliage, fuzzy brown underneath. Wonderfully fragrant blossoms begin opening in spring and may continue into early summer. For its unforgettable beauty, the Southern magnolia was designated the Louisiana state flower in 1990.

Magnolias are part of the most ancient families of flowering plants with fossil records that date back up to 95 million years. These plants predate bees and were originally only pollinated by beetles. The flower bud has not changed much from its original primitive structure. It has what is called “tepals,” a combination of sepals and petals similar to water lilies. Unlike most flowering plants they do not produce nectar but instead are heavy pollen producers. The beetles will collect this pollen for food and in turn help to pollinate the flowers. Now many common pollinators can be seen visiting the magnolia. Still, beetles are widely considered its primary pollinator.

The Southern magnolia is a large evergreen tree averaging 90 feet in height, although there have been some exceptional trees. A 30 meter (98.5 ft) tall tree was documented in Baton Rouge by the US Dept of Agriculture in 1970, along with an astonishing 37 meter (121 ft) tall tree in Smith County, Mississippi. The magnolia tree is a fast grower, averaging a lifespan of 80 – 120 years. The oldest documented Southern magnolia is in Roma, Italy, and is presumed to be over 320 years old.

There are more than 240 species of magnolias and thousands of cultivated varieties, according to the Magnolia Society International. Eight of these species are native to the US, the Southern magnolia being one of them. Dwarf cultivars are popular in local landscaping, like the Little Gem, selected by LSU AgCenter as a Louisiana Super Plant. It grows to half the size of the Southern magnolia at 20 – 40 feet and it a heavy producer, with flowers blooming late into summer.

Sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), also called swamp or laurel magnolia, is another native species commonly found in our area. An evergreen tree in our climate, its leaves have a blue-ish hue with a silvery underside. Strongly fragrant flowers are creamy-white, about 8-14 cm in diameter. The inner bark has a mild scent of bay spice.

Many species of magnolia are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes around the world. The bark, leaves, blossoms and fruit of this tree can be pickled, made into teas, or used to flavor certain rice dishes and miso soups. Popular in Asian countries and parts of Europe, these practices have not gained much notoriety here in the US.

Flora of Covington

Wildlife Lookout: Common Oaks of St. Tammany

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Oak is a name ascribed to trees and shrubs in the genus Quercus, a part of the beech family, Fagaceae. The genus, native to the Northern Hemisphere, includes approximately 600 species. North America has the most variation of species, with about 90 in the US alone. Covington, Louisiana, is home to many of them.

Oak species found in Louisiana include post oak, Shumard oak, Nuttall oak, water oak, swamp chestnut oak, blackjack oak, overcup oak, laurel oak, bluejack oak, southern red oak, white oak and live oak. Other varieties in the region are the willow oak, sawtooth oak, cherrybark oak and turkey oak.

Today we’ll talk about 5 species that can be found right here in Covington – the swamp laurel oak, southern red oak, Nuttall oak, water oak and southern live oak.

The swamp laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia) is a medium to large semi-evergreen tree growing 60 – 100 feet tall. Leaves are long, pointed, lending to its other name “diamond-leaf oak”. Smooth, usually lobe-less leaves make this tree easily confused for a live oak – however, the laurel’s leaves are longer and more pointed. The laurel oak is also a taller tree once mature and lacks the live oak’s long, drooping branches.

The southern red oak (Quercus falcata), often called Spanish oak, has long leaves with 1 distinct end lobe and often 1 – 3 lobes on each side. Its leaves are shiny green on top, with rust-colored or gray soft hairs beneath, turning reddish-brown in fall. The bark is dark gray with broad ridges and plates. Height ranges from 50 to 100 feet, although some wild specimens are noted to have grown even taller. The cherrybark oak is a variety of the southern red oak with smooth, cherrylike bark.

Nuttall oak (Quercus texana) is a large tree native to the Mississippi River valley with an average height of 60 to 100 feet. Also erroneously referred to as a pin oak because of its similar foliage, it was not distinguished as a separate species until 1927 by Thomas Nuttall. Leaves are deeply divided into 5-7 narrow long-pointed lobes, dark green above and lighter, fuzzy underside. Nuttall oak is known for its showy red leaves in fall. Acorns are oblong with dark stripes.

water oak leaves and acorns
water oak bark

Which brings us to the two most common oaks here in Covington – the water oak and the southern live oak. The water oak (Quercus nigra) stands at 50 to 100 feet, and as its name suggests, loves to grow along rivers and wetlands. Leaves are long, wedge-shaped, with a rounded slightly 3-lobed tip, dull blueish-green above, turning yellow in late fall and shedding in winter. The water oak is also called the spotted oak, named for the white splotches on its dark gray bark.

Southern Live Oak at Covington Cemetery #1

The southern live oak may be the most recognized or revered of the oaks – its large, drooping branches, usually moss and fern covered, have become a symbol of the quintessential southern tree. A shorter species only growing to about 60 feet, it tends to be wider than it is tall, with limbs stretching out to an 80 foot average canopy.

The name live oak comes from it being an ‘evergreen’ tree – for that reason other evergreen oaks are often called live oak as well. Most commonly it refers to the southern live oak, Quercus virginiana, also called Virginia Live Oak. Defining the species of live oaks can be tricky – with ongoing controversy surrounding classifying varieties and hybidizations as distinct subspecies. While the southern live oak will retain its leaves nearly year-round, it is not a true evergreen, dropping leaves immediately before new growth in spring.

Seven Sisters Oak in Lewisberg, LA, Live Oak Society President

The southern live oak is also celebrated for its longevity. Many live oaks in St. Tammany Parish are cited to be between 100 – 500 years old. Locally well known for keeping records of old Live 0aks is the Live Oak Society (LOS). The membership of this society is made up of Live Oak trees – a tree must have a circumference of 8 feet to become a member. Those with a circumference of 16 feet or more are known as “Centenarians” with an estimated age of 100 years or more. LOS boasts a membership of 9,153 trees in 14 states and is under the auspices of the Louisiana Garden Club Federation, Inc. Currently the largest tree in its membership and honored as the Society’s President, the Seven Sisters Oak in Mandeville is estimated by foresters to be 1200 years old, with a girth of over 38 feet. This oak is also the National Champion on the National Register of Big Trees.

References for this article:

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: the Many Faces of Spider Lily

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Walking around downtown in mid-summer, you will find many lily-like flowers in full bloom everywhere you look. They’re fairly easy to identify – long sturdy linear leaves protruding from the ground, unfolding to a plump stalk with a display of beautiful, usually pleasantly fragrant flowers. The hard part is determining what species of plant you are looking at. You may come across a southern swamp lily, or a wild hurricane lily, or a Carolina spiderlily. Confusingly, all of these flowers are called spider lilies!

Spider Lily is a generic name attributed to many plants in the research report format template essay bank university of birmingham does viagra increase psa defend my dissertation how to switch from bystolic to another beta blocker click here viagra en jovenes ventajas get link restatement of thesis in conclusion source medical coding homework help allegra makes me jittery click here king's college london essay cover sheet click see click growing managers case study essay on player trotz viagra keine ejakulation critical evaluation research article essay here paddington bear writing paper levitra paypal appearances can be deceptive essay essay on importance of voting in democracy go here does generic abilify work source site acyclovir liver damage Amaryllidaceae family. These can be found in four different genera: Crinum, Lycoris, Nerine and Hymenocallis.

Crinum is a genus of about 180 species of tropical and subtropical perennial plants found world-wide. The most common found here may be Crinum americanum, also called the southern swamp lily, bog lily or Florida swamp lily. Native to wetlands from Texas to Florida and up into the Carolinas, it will shoot a stalk up to 3 feet tall of large fragrant flowers around 4 inches wide, usually white with a tinge of pink. These plants prefer wet soil and medium sun, blooming in summer through fall.

Lycoris is a smaller genus of only about 13-20 species, native to eastern and southern Asia and imported to North Carolina. These plants now grow wild over most of the southeastern US. The most common, or recognizable, would be Lycoris radiata, also known as the red spider lily. Through most of the south these flowers are better known as hurricane lilies, so named because they bloom in late summer and early fall, at the height of hurricane season. A bulbous perennial, flower stems shoot out of the ground before leaves appear, with an umbel bloom of coral-red flowers. The long stamens give this flower a very spider-like look.

Nerine bowdenii, commonly called Cornish lily or Guernsey lily, is neither a true lily nor from Cornwall or Guernsey

Plants in the genus Nerine are native to South Africa and are more associated with rocky, arid habitats. Cultivated commercially for cut flowers, they are known for their showy long-lasting blooms. These plants do not tolerate tropical or humid climates, and are best grown indoors in our region. Some species are in danger of extinction due to loss or degradation of the already rare flower’s habitat. Measures are being made to preserve these species through cultivation.

Perhaps most commonly associated with the name spider lily are those found in the genus Hymenocallis. With over 60 species native to the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, this herbaceous bulbous perennial has been cultivated in warm climates around the globe. Species native to our region can be found growing wild in marshy habitats or cultivated in garden landscapes. Large lush leaves give way to tall stalks with multiple star-shaped flowers. Six narrow long petals attached to a delicate cup form these fragrant white blossoms. This is the only plant that is not well known by any other name than spider lily.

Best Part: None of these are lilies

Some examples of true lilies

The most confusing thing about these plants is that none of them are actually lilies! Although they share many characteristics, true lilies are in the family Liliaceae of the order Liliales. The grouping of both Liliaceae and Liliales are widely disputed among taxonomist, leaving much discrepancy over genus and species. Liliaceae is said to include about 254 (or 15) genera and about 4075 (or 610) known species, including true lilies and tulips.

Floral diversity in Amaryllidaceae. A: Crinum, B: Narcissus, C: Sprekelia, D: Agapanthus, E: Allium, F: Tristagma photo credit

All flowers known as spider lilies are in the family Amaryllidaceae in the order Asparagales. Also called the the amaryllis family after the genus from which its named, it now contains about 1600 different species, divided into about 75 genera, 17 tribes and 3 subfamilies. Amaryllidaceae subfamilies are the Agapanthoideae (agapanthus), Allioideae (onions and chives) and Amaryllidoideae (amaryllis, daffodils, snowdrops).

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Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: the Turk’s Cap Mallow

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Malvaviscus arboreus
This plant’s bright red flowers can be seen popping up all over Covington through most of the summer and even into fall. The small, hibiscus-like flowers never fully open, their petals overlapping to form a loose tube with the staminal column protruding. It is said to resemble a Turkish turban, hence its most common name Turk’s Cap, but it is also referred to as the Wax Mallow, Bleeding Hearts, Sleeping Hibiscus, or Mexican Apple. It likes shady places, especially along rivers and creeks, making Covington an ideal home for this cheery wild shrub.

Jeff McMillian, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Turk’s Cap is a member of the Mallow family (family Malvaceae), which includes herbs, shrubs, and rarely small trees. There are about 85 genera and 1,500 species, many in tropical America. Okra, hibiscus and the cotton plant are also in this family.

Most Turk’s Cap that we see here are native varieties, though other varieties have been introduced to the region. Turk’s Cap has also been introduced to Hawaii, Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands.

Jeff McMillian, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

One native variation drummondii, or Drummond’s Turk’s Cap, is named for Thomas Drummond, (ca. 1790-1835), a Scottish naturalist who in the 1830’s spent twenty-one months working the area between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau, especially along the Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe rivers. He collected 750 species of plants and 150 specimens of birds. His collections were the first in Texas that were extensively distributed among the museums and scientific institutions of the world.

Like hibiscus, the flower and fruit of Turk’s Cap are edible and can be made into tea. The long, cylindrical shape of the flower makes it perfect for butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Birds and small mammal will also feast on it’s fruit.

The hardiness of this perennial shrub makes it an ideal addition to gardens! It is drought resistant and will over-winter outdoors in our climate.

Lytle, Melody – Wildflower Center Digital Library

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Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: the Crape Myrtle

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Genus: Lagerstroemia

The Crape Myrtle, also spelled crepe myrtle, is a genus of trees and shrubs with approximately 50 species. These evergreens can range from 1 – 100 feet tall, but all share the common characteristic of many long-lasting, showy flowers blooming through summer and fall. Colors vary from deep purple to red to white, with almost every shade in between. The name “crepe” stems from the flower’s crimpled, crepe-like texture.

Native to southeast Asia, northern Australia and Oceania, this colorful ornamental can be found in yards, gardens and parks over much of southern US. Three species we most often see here are the common crape myrtle (L. indica), the Japanese crape myrtle (L. fauriei), and the queen crape (L. speciosa).

The common crape was introduced from China and Korea to Charleston, South Carolina in 1790. After over 200 years of cultivation, the common crape myrtle has many varieties to fit almost any landscaping need.

Lagerstroemia fauriei – Japanese crape – W. Mark and J. Reimer

The Japanese crape is known for its distinctive smooth, slippery bark. The Japanese name, saru suberi, literally translates to “monkey slip”. This species is much hardier to frost and fungus, making it a popular parent plant in crape hybrids.

The Queen crape, also known as the giant crape myrtle or banabá, is native to tropical and subtropical India. This species is only suitable for similar climates, and in the US can be found in Florida, southernmost Texas, South Louisiana, coastal southern California, and Hawaii. It is a small to medium-sized tree, most characterized by it’s flaky and smooth white bark.

Crape Murder – Is It Actually Murder?

A common practice for many landscapers is to cut back crapes significantly at the end of each season, called ‘crape murder’. The idea is that new growth creates more blooms next year. While this may be true, excessive yearly pruning can lead to long-term damage to the tree, including stunted trunk growth and a weakened immunity to mildew. It is recommended to only prune dead limbs or limb ends.

Here in Covington, the Crape Myrtles are in full bloom! Take a walk around downtown to admire all of the beautiful varieties!

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