Interpretive Plant Signs

Welcome to the NPSOT Williamson County Chapter Interpretive Plant Signs webpage! For photos and more information about each plant, click on its link in the list below, and then click on the links to various plant databases for that plant. Maps of the parks and trails where we have installed interpretive plant signs are available, and information about the project can be found in the NPSOT Chapter Tool Chest.


Mahonia trifoliolata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Due to its stiff, sharply-pointed leaves, it is a seemingly unfriendly but actually very useful shrub. Small birds and animals use these evergreen bushes as cover. Bees make honey from the clusters of small, fragrant, yellow flowers that appear in February to March. Pioneers used the yellow wood for dye. In late spring, bright red berries give it the appearance of a holly. Also called “Agrito” or “Little Sour” because of the tart, edible, pea-sized berries which are eaten raw or in jellies, tarts, pies, or wine.

American Elm

Ulmus americana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. One of the longest living elms, this tree can live over 300 years, but in the northeast and midwest U.S. it is vulnerable to Dutch Elm disease. Fast growing, it has a vase-shaped canopy up to 100 feet tall that provides lots of shade, making it a favorite landscape tree. This elm is most often found near streams and rivers. Early settlers used the wood for barrels, toys, and baskets, and Native Americans used the inner bark for rope. The wood is currently used for railroad ties, boxes, and crates. Its winged seeds are eaten by birds, and its twigs and leaves are browsed by deer, opossums, and rabbits. The leaves turn bright yellow in the fall.

American Sycamore

Platanus occidentalis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. American Sycamore is one of the largest (up to 100 feet tall) and most easily recognized hardwood trees in Texas. It has white-to-gray peeling bark and large leaves up to a foot across. Although found along streams in its natural setting, it has been used as a landscape tree since 1640. It is fast growing and has low maintenance, but it should not be planted on poor, dry sites. The wood is resistant to splitting, making it useful for butcher blocks and buttons, thus its old common name of “Buttonwood”. Round, fuzzy, 1-inch seed balls on long stems are persistent on the branches after the leaves have fallen.

Antelope Horns

Asclepias asperula

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Antelope Horns milkweed grows 1 to 2 feet tall and is an important host plant for Monarch and Queen butterflies – their caterpillars eat the leaves, and the sap contains chemicals that protect them from predators. The plant’s follicles (seed pods) grow 2 to 5 inches long and curve to resemble antelope horns. The “horns” change color from green to maroon as they dry, then split open to release their silk-borne seeds. During World War II, the buoyant silk from milkweed plants was used as stuffing for soldiers’ life jackets. Flowers are greenish-yellow with burgundy highlights and occur in showy clusters at the top of the stems. Found in grasslands, open woodlands, and roadsides. Blooms March through May.

Arkansas Yucca

Yucca arkansana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Ranging from south-central Texas to north-central Texas, into Oklahoma and Arkansas, this yucca prefers chalky, gravelly soil on rocky hillsides and prairies. The leaves are bluish-green to yellowish-green with white margins and curly threads on the margin of the long, thin, flexible leaf. Performs well as an understory plant in the shade, but blooms much better in full sun. The six-foot tall flower stalk arises from the clump of basal leaves with greenish-white petals; pollinated by a specific species of nocturnal yucca moth. Yuccas need soil with good drainage and make an ideal accent plant in the landscape.

Ashe Juniper

Juniperus ashei

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Ashe Juniper (commonly known as “Cedar”) is a small, multi-trunked tree found in rocky, limestone soil from central to west Texas. It is the dominant evergreen shrub or small tree of the Texas Hill Country that sometimes forms dense stands (“cedar brakes”). In the spring, the Golden-cheeked Warbler builds its nests exclusively out of cedar bark, which comes off in long strips. The decay-resistant wood is still used for fence posts, and it was once an important source of charcoal. The leaves are dark green, minutely saw-toothed, and have a cedar scent. The blueberry-like fruits on the female trees are eagerly eaten by wildlife. Pollen from the male tree in winter is the source of “cedar fever” for allergy sufferers.

Black Walnut

Juglans nigra

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Fruit ripens in the fall, usually in clusters of two or three nuts. Found in deep soils in bottomland floodplains, at the edge of fields, and along streams throughout central Texas. The trees are typically not seen growing in vast thickets due to allelopathy – roots and leaves exude a chemical called juglone that prevents the growth of seedlings, even other walnuts, around the parent tree. The pith of the twigs is chambered, versus the solid pith found in Pecan and hickories. The wood is prized for furniture and paneling; the husks surrounding the nutmeats produce an excellent brown dye.

Black Willow

Salix nigra

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A fast-growing tree found in all areas of Texas where there is standing water, a stream, or a dry stream where water may accumulate. Often has multiple trunks. Bark is deeply furrowed. Leaves are long and narrow and allow dappled shade below. Twigs are bright yellow-green and bear flowers called catkins in March and April. Male and female flowers are on separate trees. Seeds are wind-borne on silky hairs. Used by Native Americans for pain relief, the bark contains salicin which is chemically related to the active ingredient in aspirin. Native Americans also used the roots for dye and the young branches for weaving baskets and mats. Host plant for several butterflies.

Blackjack Oak

Quercus marilandica

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A Blackjack Oak can be identified by its rough, black bark and large, “duck foot” shaped leaves with veins that extend past the leaf margin to form short bristles. It is a small- to medium-sized tree that is slow growing, long lived, and able to survive on very poor, dry, sandy or clay soils. Blackjack Oak often holds its dried leaves through the winter. Every other year, it produces acorns that are eaten by birds and mammals, and it is a larval host plant for many species of butterflies and moths. Blackjack Oak wood is hard, heavy, and strong, and it is used for firewood and charcoal. Blackjack Oak is frequently found growing with Post Oak and Texas Hickory.

Blue Curls

Phacelia congesta

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This plant is usually found in colonies. It is an erect branching plant about 1 to 3 feet tall. The flower clusters are coiled up and uncurl as the buds develop. The individual flower is blue and bell-shaped with long yellow stamens. Blooms March to May. Also known as “Caterpillars” or “Fiddleneck”. Annual or biennial. Leaves are soft and deeply cut, appearing ragged-looking. Provides nectar for bees and butterflies. Tolerates dry conditions and a variety of soils.

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Box Elder Maple

Acer negundo

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This fast-growing but short-lived tree is found in floodplains and along stream banks. It tolerates both drought and cold, but its weak wood is prone to insect and wind damage. The slender twigs have shiny, green bark. Although it can sometimes be confused with Poison Ivy, a close look will distinguish between them – the compound leaves of Box Elder Maple (which may have 3, 5, 7 or 9 leaflets) grow opposite each other on the branch, while those of Poison Ivy (with 3 leaflets) alternate along the branch. The trees produce clusters of two-winged seeds in the fall that are eaten by squirrels and birds. Box Elder Maple is a larval host to the Cecropia silkmoth.

Bradford Pear

Pyrus calleryana

TX Invasives, USDA NRCS. Bradford Pear is a spring flowering ornamental tree that is native to China. The profuse white flowers are pretty, but stinky. Because it is a fast-growing, short-lived tree, it has weak branches that often fall or split in high winds. It was assumed to be sterile when introduced in 1964, but it has cross pollinated with other pear trees and produced small, non-edible fruits which are reported to be toxic to dogs. Birds spread the seeds in natural areas where the trees can be highly aggressive, crowding out desirable native species. This exotic tree should never be planted in your landscape.

Bull Nettle

Cnidoscolus texanus

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. The creamy white flowers of the Bull Nettle are a common sight in pastures and fields in Texas from March through September. The flowers may be attractive, but don’t get too close! The entire plant (except for the flowers) is covered with clear, needle-like, stinging hairs. Merely brushing against it will produce an intense burning rash. Bull Nettle can grow upright to a height of 40 inches, or branch into a sprawling plant of 1 to 2 feet high. Its dark-green leaves grow 3 to 6 inches wide, and its large seeds are said to be tasty when ripe. Other common names for this plant are “tread-softly” and “mala mujer”, Spanish for “bad woman”.

Bur Oak

Quercus macrocarpa

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Bur Oak, also known as “Overcup Oak”, is a large (up to 100+ feet) deciduous tree with a wide-open crown. Leaves up to 9 inches long and deeply lobed. Its acorns are the largest of all native oaks – some are bigger than golf balls! Up to half of the acorn is enclosed in a cup with coarse scales and a fringed edge. The tree is drought resistant, long lived, and reasonably fast growing for an oak. Resistant to oak wilt but sensitive to root zone disturbance during construction. Larval host plant for the Banded Hairstreak and Sleepy Duskywing butterflies. The wood is useful for baskets, lumber, railroad ties, fences, cabinets, and flooring.

Bushy Bluestem

Andropogon glomeratus

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This is a very attractive grass, especially in the fall. Usually present in low, moist sites; many see it as an indicator of an underground water source. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall in a clump. Easily recognized by the dense, broom-like, tufted floral sprays on the uppermost branches. Stout stems turn a stunning bronze color in late fall and winter. Larval host to several eastern skipper butterflies. Provides good cover for birds and small animals.

Canada Wild Rye

Elymus canadensis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Also known as Nodding Wild Rye because the seedheads tend to droop over in the fall. Differs from Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus) in this respect. Larval host for the Zabulon Skipper butterfly and used as a food source by granivorous birds and small mammals. Deer are not fond of this grass. Short-lived perennial, it grows from 2 to 4 feet tall. Can tolerate shade and medium water use. Native to most of North America, from Canada to Mexico, except for the southeastern United States. It can hybridize with E. virginicus, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

Carolina Buckthorn

Frangula caroliniana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Carolina Buckthorn has smooth, rich green leaves with distinctive, parallel veins that are more pointed at the tip than the base. Its leaves and round, black berries remain on the small tree (up to 25 feet tall) through the fall, and they are food sources for several species of birds. Adapted to many soil types, it is often found growing near steams and in areas protected from deer browsing. Carolina Buckthorn is a handsome and versatile addition to the landscape.

Cedar Elm

Ulmus crassifolia

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This is the most widespread native elm species in Texas and the only native Texas elm that flowers and sets seed in the fall. Its leaves are small, sandpapery to the touch, and turn yellow in the fall. It grows on a wide variety of soils from dry limestone to river bottoms where it reaches its greatest size. A hardy tree that grows reasonably fast, it is easily transplanted and requires little care, making it a popular landscape and shade tree. The small fruits are abundant, but they are of only minor importance to wildlife such as squirrels, mice, and turkeys. Young wood produces corky wings along the stems. Often parasitized by mistletoe, Cedar Elm is a host plant for several butterflies.


Melia azedarach

TX Invasives, USDA NRCS. Native to China, this plant was originally introduced as a street tree or shade tree. However, Chinaberry easily escapes cultivation, and it has spread aggressively throughout Texas, crowding out desirable native species. Chinaberry has a relatively short life span, weak wood, and drooping clusters of round berries that are hard and green at first, becoming opaque, yellow, and soft when mature. Toxic to humans, the fruit ripens in the fall but persists through the winter. The long, compound leaf has a terminal leaflet. This exotic tree should never be planted in your landscape.

Chinese Tallow Tree

Triadica sebifera

TX Invasives, USDA NRCS. Introduced from Asia in the 1700s, the common name comes from the white substance covering the seed that has been used to make soap and candles. It grows up to 40 feet tall and the leaves are oval with a prominent tip. It was a popular landscaping ornamental tree for its brilliant fall color and distinctive white seed capsules. However, it spreads rapidly and becomes the dominant plant in disturbed areas, abandoned fields, and stream banks. It crowds out native species and disrupts the native ecosystems. This exotic tree should never be planted in your landscape. In fact, existing plants should be removed.

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Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Growing 2 – 4 feet tall, Coralberry’s small, greenish-white flower clusters bloom April to July. In the fall, it produces small pink and purple berries down the length of the stem that remain on the plant throughout the winter. Its simple leaves are 1 – 2 inches long, oval, and arranged oppositely along the branches. Coralberry’s native habitat is shaded woods, thickets, and streambanks. It spreads underground and by rooting wherever it touches the ground. Birds and small mammals use this plant for food, cover, and nesting sites.

Creek Plum

Prunus rivularis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Creek plum is a thicket-forming shrub to small tree that has tasty, cherry-sized plums. Its profuse sweet-smelling spring blooms are attractive and covered with nectar seeking insects. Its dense habit provides a haven for small birds and offers an abundance of desirable food for wildlife in the summer. The fruit usually ripens to yellow with a crimson blush on one side or it may be all crimson. The plums make an excellent jam or jelly, but one needs a lot of them because of their small size. They can be eaten straight off the tree but are tart.

Eastern Persimmon

Diospyros virginiana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Well known to Native Americans and early settlers. Unripened or green persimmon fruit is astringent and is generally considered edible only after the first frost. The pulp can be used in a variety of ways such as puddings, cakes, jams, and bread. The seeds were sometimes used as a coffee substitute during the Civil War. Only female plants produce fruit. The bark on old trunks is broken into scaly, squarish blocks. Persimmon wood is noted for its toughness, strength, hardness, and ability to absorb shock; it becomes smoother with wear. Its primary uses were for textile weaving shuttles, billiard cues, and golf club heads.


Forestiera pubescens

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Shrub that is common in open woodlands, brushy areas, and near streams. Tiny yellow flowers borne in clusters appear in early spring before leaves appear. Also called “Spring Herald”. Provides early spring nectar to butterflies, especially Hairstreaks. Dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are on separate bushes. Mature fruit is dark blue on female plants and can be added to regular gum to make chewing gum. Stems grow at a nearly ninety degree angle from the parent branch somewhat resembling an elbow, hence the common name. Downward-curving branches inspire another common name, “Tanglefoot”.

Escarpment Live Oak

Quercus fusiformis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A dominant, thicket-forming shrub of the Texas Hill Country, it will slowly grow into a stately 40-foot tall tree with massive horizontal limbs. The tough, semi-evergreen leaves are replaced over several weeks each spring. Also known as “Plateau Live Oak”, it is an indispensable larval host to many moths and butterflies. Its abundant, dark-brown acorns are long and narrow at both ends and an important food source for many birds and mammals. It is highly susceptible to Oak Wilt fungus which is spread primarily through root contact, but also by infected insects attracted to exposed wood tissue.

Flameleaf Sumac

Rhus lanceolata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Common on dry, rocky hillsides, along fencerows, and in old fields. Blooms in summer with clusters of small, white flowers. Leaves turn brilliant red in fall, and clusters of fruit turn red when ripe. Important food source for quail and other birds. Native Americans made a lemon-flavored drink from the berries. Leaves contain tannin and have been used in tanning leather. A “pioneer species”, this is one of the first plants to reappear after a fire. Also known as “Lance-leaf Sumac”.


Verbesina virginica

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Grows 3 to 6 feet tall, mostly in the shade. Blooms with white flowers from August to November that are an important nectar source for migrating Monarch butterflies. The stems put on an amazing display when air temperatures are freezing but the ground is still warm enough for the plant’s root system to be active. Plant juices flow from these roots up into the stem where the cold air freezes them. As the moisture in the plant freezes, the ice crystals push out through the stem creating nature’s unusual ice sculptures.

Giant Ragweed

Ambrosia trifida

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This large, hairy plant with long, green flower spikes at its top can grow to over 10 feet tall. It blooms from June to October. Ragweed pollen is spread by wind rather than insects and is a major cause of hay fever in the fall. The leaves are very rough to the touch on both bottom and top surfaces. Leaves vary in shape, but are mostly three-lobed; lower leaves may have five lobes. It is commonly found along rivers and streams, in wetlands, and in other low areas. An old-time name for Giant Ragweed was “blood weed” due to its red sap. In the past, school children would sometimes pretend that they had the measles by putting dots of the sap from freshly-cut stems on their faces.


Thelesperma filifolium

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. The yellow flowers of this curiously named plant are a common sight along Texas roadsides from spring through fall. Greenthread is so named because its narrow, drought-tolerant leaves are hardly wider than threads. An erect, slender annual or short-lived perennial, it can grow to 2 feet tall and is often found in colonies on dry, calcareous (limestone) soils. The buds droop downward before opening. In limestone soils, Greenthread’s eight-petaled, yellow flowers have reddish-brown centers. Those that grow in the Rolling and High Plains have yellow centers.

Gum Bumelia

Sideroxylon lanuginosum

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Often mistaken for a small, semi-evergreen Escarpment Live Oak, Gum Bumelia briefly loses its leaves in the winter. The leaves are dark green and smooth above, but lighter and fuzzy below, with rolled-down edges and a tapering base, often clustered on short, stout, thorn-tipped branchlets. Small, white, fragrant flowers in the summer produce blue-black berries in the fall that are eagerly eaten by wildlife. The sap was used as chewing gum by the children of early pioneers. Also known as “Chittamwood”, “Wooly Buckthorn”, or “Coma”.

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Hairy Grama

Bouteloua hirsuta

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Perennial, warm-season bunchgrass that grows 1 to 2 feet tall in dense tufts. Leaf blades are hairy on the margins, especially at the base. In the fall, has a unique inflorescence (seed head) that is distinguished from other gramas because the last spikelet of the comb-like branches sticks out with a prominent point or “stinger”. Occurs throughout Texas, often interspersed with other bunchgrasses and wildflowers. Larval host plant to the Green Skipper and Orange Roadside Skipper butterflies.

Honey Mesquite

Prosopis glandulosa

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. One of our first written observations of the Honey Mesquite was made by Cabeza de Vaca in the early 1500s. Although Honey Mesquite branches have thorns up to 2 inches long, it has been used by humans for food, lumber, and firewood. Bees make honey from its sweet-smelling blossoms. Cattle and other wildlife have eaten the bean pods and helped to spread the species throughout the state. The plant is deep rooted and drought tolerant, making it adaptable to most soils.


Monarda citriodora

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This fragrant plant grows 1 to 2.5 feet tall and thrives in sandy or rocky soils. It can be found throughout Texas, often in large colonies in fields and along roadsides. Flowers are pink to purple, sometimes white. Flowers grow in whorls at the top of the stem, with new flowers appearing above the previous ones on the same stem. The plant is also known as “Lemon Beebalm” – citriodora means “to smell like a lemon”. The leaves can be dried and brewed into tea; they have also been used as an insect repellant for horses and cattle. Horsemint blooms from May through July, and is named in honor of Nicolas Monardes, an early Spanish writer on medicinal plants.


Vachellia farnesiana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Small tree with long, tough spines. Blooms in spring with yellow-gold balls of tiny flowers. Light green, feathery foliage. Fast-growing and drought-resistant, this pioneer plant is often seen in disturbed areas. Sometimes confused with Honey Mesquite, Huisache wood can ruin a barbecue, as the smoke gives meat an unpleasant flavor. The flowers, however, are prized by French perfume manufacturers for their delicate scent. Bees make honey from the flowers, and birds eat the seeds. The seed pods have been used to make ink. Huisache (pronounced “wee-SAH-tchay” or “WEE-satch”) means “many thorns” in Nahuatl (Aztec). Also known as “Sweet Acacia” or “Perfume Acacia”.

Indian Blanket

Gaillardia pulchella

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. As the bluebonnets start to fade in May, Indian Blanket, also known as “Firewheel”, produces massive, beautiful displays in fields and along roadsides throughout the Hill Country. Indian Blanket is native to the southern and central U.S. and northern Mexico. This 1-foot tall annual is easily started from seeds sown in the fall and does best in full sun and well-drained soil. The showy flower heads, 1 – 2 inches across, have a reddish-brown center and yellow tips, with three teeth on the outer edge of each petal. “Gaillardia” in the scientific name honors Antoine Gaillard, a 19th century amateur French botanist, and “pulchella” means “pretty”.

Inland Sea Oats

Chasmanthium latifolium

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Also known as “Broadleaf Woodoats”. This warm season perennial grass has drooping wheat-like seed heads. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Usually found as an understory plant in shaded, moist soils of woodlands, along streams, ditches, and lake borders. Provides excellent forage for wildlife, especially birds and mammals. This plant has also made its way into ornamental landscaping. Grows well in shady gardens and can be used as a container plant. Seed heads are often used in dried floral arrangements.

Lindheimer Muhly

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Named for Gotthilf Muhlenberg, America’s first outstanding botanist, and Ferdinand Lindheimer, the Father of Texas Botany. Growing up to 5 feet tall, this impressive native bunchgrass has many stiffly erect stems and arching, blue-green foliage. Birds eat the mature seeds and use the leaves for nesting materials. Makes an elegant landscaping plant, as screening or an accent, and is a great substitute for non-native Pampas Grass. The bloom period is in the fall and the foliage persists through the winter. Also known as “Big Muhly”.

Little Bluestem

Schizachyrium scoparium

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Beautiful native bunchgrass, one of the “Big Four” grasses of the American tallgrass prairie. Grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Colors alternate up the stem, between red-purple and blue-green. The seed heads are sparkling silver in spring and summer, then turn orange-red in the fall. Provides seeds and forage for birds and small mammals, and is a host plant for skipper butterflies.

Mealy Blue Sage

Salvia farinacea

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This beautiful native prairie plant is very drought tolerant. It is a dependable bloomer on shallow, poor soils. Aromatic scent protects this plant from deer. This salvia has been used as a healing plant and the leaves make a refreshing tea. Also known as “Mealy Sage” or “Mealycup Sage”, it is a member of the mint family and has square stems. A great native perennial for the landscape. Butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy the nectar.

Mexican Buckeye

Ungnadia speciosa

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Often a multi-trunked, small tree with fragrant, pinkish-purple flowers in spring when new leaves emerge. Fruit is a 3-lobed capsule containing up to three dark brown to black shiny seeds that are poisonous. The capsule will often stay on the plant through the winter. From a distance, plants in full flower resemble redbuds or peaches. Bees produce fragrant honey from the flowers. Although not a true buckeye, its large capsules and seeds are similar.

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Mexican Hat

Ratibida columnifera

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This colorful flower resembles the traditional sombrero worn during Mexican fiestas, with its prominent cone in the center surrounded by a brim of petals. One of the most common Texas wildflowers, it blooms in fields, prairies, open areas, and along roadsides, often in great numbers. The petals are usually reddish brown or maroon at the base and yellow at the tip, but they can also be primarily yellow. Nectar of this flower provides food for bees and butterflies. Also known as “Prairie Coneflower”. Its leaves and stalks have been brewed in tea to treat stomach aches, and its flowers brewed to treat headaches.

Mexican Plum

Prunus mexicana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. In early spring, before the leaves appear, the tree blooms with fragrant, white flowers that attract bees. The tree is a good substitute for the overly-planted, non-native Bradford Pear. Produces a one-inch purple plum in late summer that is great for jelly and eaten by wildlife. Found growing throughout central Texas, it has characteristic peeling bark along the trunk.

Mustang Grape

Vitis mustangensis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Very common, one of three types of wild grapes found in Texas Hill Country. Easily identified by the leaves, which are thick and leathery on top and fuzzy white underneath. Leaves can be different shapes, lobed or unlobed. Grapes ripen to purple in late summer. Though sour, they can be made into wine and jelly and are a food source for birds, deer, and small mammals. Resistant to drought, heat, and disease. Old vines near streams can be more than 40 feet long with a base as large as a tree.

Netleaf Hackberry

Celtis laevigata var. reticulata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. With conspicuous, net-like veins on the lower surface, the leaves are shorter, thicker, and rougher on the upper surface than those of Sugar Hackberry. Netleaf Hackberry has characteristic corky bark and pea-sized reddish fruits that persist on the tree throughout the winter as a food source for a variety of birds. The leaves are eaten by a number of insects, thus providing an additional resource for the birds. Grows up to 30 feet tall, only half the size of Sugar Hackberry, but is better adapted to drier conditions. The branches often have deformed bushy growths called “witches brooms” that are produced by mites and fungi.

Obedient Plant

Physostegia intermedia

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Though this plant thrives in occasional standing water, it is also very hardy during times of drought. Blooms May to June. Makes a great cut flower for floral arrangements. The stem is square like others in the mint family. Flowers grow straight up and down the stem on all four sides and at right angles to it. They may be moved laterally (like the pages in a book), and will remain in the new position, thus the common name.

Old Man’s Beard

Clematis drummondii

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A native vine typically seen climbing on fences and shrubs. Male and female flowers on different plants. When seeds mature in the fall, the female vine is covered with great masses of silky, feathery plumes which grow out from the seed cover. Named after Thomas Drummond, a Scottish naturalist who traveled between Galveston Island and the Edwards Plateau collecting plants and birds in the early 1830s. His collections were the first made in Texas that were extensively distributed among museums and scientific institutions across the world.

Osage Orange

Maclura pomifera

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A medium-sized tree with a short trunk, a few thorns, and a shallow root system. The green fruit is called a “horse apple”; they can be decorative or used as roach repellent around the house. The wood is very strong, durable, resistant to decay, and bright orange, often being used as a dye. The wood makes great fence posts, and pioneers used the wood for wagon wheel hubs. The arching branches were used for bow wood by Native Americans. Another common name is “Bois d’Arc” which comes from the French words meaning “wood of the bow”.

Pearl Milkweed Vine

Matelea reticulata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This milkweed is easily identified by the distinctive, silvery “pearl” in the center of its flower. The flowers are flat with five, net-like patterned petals that bloom from April through June. It climbs with twining tendrils on fence rows and up into small trees to a length of 10 – 12 feet. Leaves are opposite and heart-shaped, and both stems and leaves are covered with soft hairs. Common in central Texas, its range extends to west Texas and into northern Mexico. The slender, spiny seed pods are 2 – 4 inches long and open when seeds mature. Like all milkweeds, this plant is a food source for Queen and Monarch butterfly larvae, and its white, latex-like sap provides their caterpillars with protection from predators.


Carya illinoinensis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. As the State Tree of Texas, the Pecan is native to all areas of Texas except the High Plains and the Trans Pecos. The high-energy, high-protein nuts were a favorite food of the Native Americans and are an important food source for many wildlife species. Pecan trees can grow up to 90 feet tall in deep, fertile soils associated with streams and river bottoms, and they can easily live 300 years or more. Many improved varieties are available today that produce more meat per pound and are easier to shell. Twigs have a solid pith, versus the chambered pith found in walnuts.

Plateau Goldeneye

Viguiera dentata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This attractive, bushy plant has yellow, daisy-like flowers that bloom in the fall. It tends to grow in colonies. Its leaves are narrow and its flowers appear at the tips of long, leafless stalks. It attracts bees and butterflies and is a larval host for the Bordered Patch and Cassius Blue butterflies. Extremely drought-tolerant, the plant grows 3 feet tall in sun and up to 6 feet tall in partial shade. The flower stalks provide good seed forage throughout the winter for finches and other birds.

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Poison Ivy

Toxicodendron radicans

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. “Leaflets three, leave it be” is definitely true for this plant. Plant takes on many forms: upright, bushy, climbing, or trailing. Old stems are covered with fibrous roots that look hairy. Bears small, yellowish-white flower clusters. The plant contains an oil called urushiol which can cause skin dermatitis or a rash. The oil can be carried on clothing and pet fur. Best to wash with soap (a dish soap that cuts grease) and water immediately after encountering the plant. The small, round, whitish fruit are persistent on bare twigs through the winter and are eaten by many bird species. The leaves turn red in the fall.

Post Oak

Quercus stellata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Post Oak is the most common oak in Texas. It is found on sandy or gravelly soils associated with dry, upland ridges. Growing up to 50 feet tall, this tree is drought resistant, slow growing, and long lived, but its roots are extremely sensitive to damage, soil compaction, and over-watering. Its leaves usually have two flat-edged lobes forming a distinctive cross shape. Stout limbs often hold its dried leaves through the winter, and its gray bark has deep, long grooves. Post Oak acorns are an important food source for wildlife. It is a larval host plant for many species of butterflies and moths. Post Oak’s hard, heavy wood resists decay and is used for posts and railroad ties.


Ilex decidua

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A particularly striking plant November to February because of the many, small berries that cling to the bare branches of the female plant after the leaves drop off. Provides excellent winter food for many animals such as opossums, raccoons, other mammals, songbirds, and gamebirds. Male and female flowers develop on separate bushes, so only female plants produce the berries which can range in color from bright red to orange to yellow. A beautiful small ornamental tree that will tolerate sun or shade and a variety of soils.

Poverty Weed

Baccharis neglecta

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This shrub is typically 5 to 9 feet tall with willow-like branches. As an early successional plant, it is one of the first to move into abandoned fields, roadsides, and disturbed habitats. In late summer, it produces clusters of creamy white flowers followed by silvery-plumed seeds that cover the plant like a white cloud. Monarch butterflies often rest on it during their fall migration. Also known as “Roosevelt Weed”, it was planted as a fast, easy way to revegetate damaged soil after the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Prickly Pear Cactus

Opuntia engelmannii

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This cactus has been named the State Plant of Texas. All parts of the plant, including stems, flowers, fruit, seeds, thorns, and even the sap have been used from prehistoric to contemporary times. The red fruits, called tunas, were the major source of sugar for Native Americans as early as 9,000 years ago and are still used today in jellies and fruit drinks. The blossoms are a nectar source for bees, beetles, and other insects. The plants provide shelter for small mammals and reptiles, and are nest sites for wrens, roadrunners, and other birds. Cochineal, a tiny insect that can live within a waxy, white substance on the prickly pear pads, provided the main source of red dye from about 1520 to 1850.

Purple Leatherflower

Clematis pitcheri

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A vine that can be found climbing on shrubs or next to trees along streams or in seep areas. Has nodding, long-lasting flowers around one inch long that have four dark-purple, leathery sepals that curve upwards at the tips. The flower is often overlooked by the casual passerby as it blends in with the shadows. The leaves have 3 to 4 pairs of leaflets which are often deeply incised into 2 or 3 lobes. Dies back to the ground in the winter.

Red Mulberry

Morus rubra

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A common tree of eastern North America whose leaves feel fuzzy on the lower surface, turn bright yellow in the fall, and often have an elongated tip. Host plant for the Mourning Cloak butterfly. Male and female flowers are on different plants. The sweet red and purple berries were once prized fresh and for jams and pies. However, the berries (and the birds that relish them) can sometimes make a mess, so now many nurseries offer the fruitless, male trees. Grows fast up to 40 feet tall in moist woodlands and riparian areas.

Rough-leaf Dogwood

Cornus drummondii

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A small tree or large shrub up to 15 feet tall. Found along streams or in bottomlands. Blooms with numerous white to creamy-white flowers in clusters from April through May. Waxy-white fruits are about 1/4 inch in diameter and an important food source for many bird species. Opposite leaves are 4 inches long with prominent veins, especially on the lower surface. Upper leaf surface is slightly rough to the touch, thus the common name. The species is named after Scottish naturalist Thomas Drummond (1790 – 1835) who collected plant specimens in Texas.

Seep Muhly

Muhlenbergia reverchonii

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This native grass is found in areas where groundwater seeps to the surface. It grows 1 to 3 feet tall and forms a distinctive, curly-leafed mound of narrow, in-rolled leaves. The plant blooms from August through November, producing seeds from September through December. The seeds are a favorite food for wintering birds. In the spring, birds use the leaves for nesting material. From a distance, the inflorescence (seed head) looks like copper-colored cotton candy. Due to its soft texture and pretty inflorescence, Seep Muhly is a popular landscape plant.

Seven-leaf Creeper

Parthenocissus heptaphylla

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Seven-leaf Creeper is a native vine found only in central Texas. It resembles Virginia Creeper which has five leaflets and is found throughout much of North and Central America. Seven-leaf Creeper can sometimes have just five or six leaflets, but they are narrower, thicker, and shorter than those of the Virginia Creeper. Another difference is that the tendrils of Seven-leaf Creeper lack the adhesive disks found on Virginia Creeper. The leaves turn a lovely orange to maroon color in late fall. When this deciduous vine loses its leaves in the winter it can be mistaken for Poison Ivy.

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Sideoats Grama

Bouteloua curtipendula

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. The State Grass of Texas. A native bunchgrass 18 to 30 inches tall. Adapted to most soil conditions, this is one of the most important range grasses due to its long growing season and high-volume, nutritious forage that cures well. In winter, the whitish leaves are curly. It derives its name from the small oat-like seeds that often hang down from only one side of the stem, providing easy recognition. A good conservation grass as well as a good seed producer for birds. Larval host plant for skipper butterflies. Sideoats Grama is a good planting choice for a wildflower garden with Little Bluestem.

Silver Bluestem

Bothriochloa laguroides

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This grass can be distinguished in the fall by its prominent, white, fluffy-flowered seed head. It grows 1.5 to 2 feet tall in a clump. Provides seeds and forage for birds and small mammals. Warblers and other migratory birds perch on these seed heads and pick out the seeds. Native Americans were recorded to have used the stems as toothpicks. Also known as “Silver Beardgrass”. Prefers dry sites and spreads quickly in disturbed or overgrazed areas. It is replaced by other grasses as growing conditions improve.

Simpson’s Rosinweed

Silphium gracile

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Usually found in alluvial soils scattered in a few locations on the eastern edge of the Hill Country. This robust plant in the sunflower family grows 2 to 6 feet tall, usually with unbranched stems. The yellow flower heads grow up to 2.5 inches wide. Blooms from July to September. Its common name comes from the sticky sap it exudes from the stem and leaves. Used by Native Americans as chewing gum.

Southern Dewberry

Rubus trivialis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A sprawling, trailing, prickly shrub with woody, thorny, tangled canes, resembling blackberries. In spring, conspicuous 1-inch white flowers are followed by small purple to black berries. The berries are delicious and can be used for cobbler, pies, and jam. That is, if you can pick them before the small mammals get them. Dewberry thickets provide excellent cover for snakes, box turtles, songbirds, and other small wildlife.


Mentzelia oligosperma

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A perennial plant, 1 to 2 feet tall. Leaves have toothed margins that are covered with hooked hairs which allow them to stick to clothing or fur, hence the common name. In fact, once the leaf hairs penetrate fabric, only slow decay will remove them. Flowers are yellow-orange with five petals and appear in the summer months. Fruits are capsules. Usually grows in dry rocky sites, particularly limestone and gypsum hillsides, ledges, and bluffs.

Sugar Hackberry

Celtis laevigata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. The bark is covered with corky warts that may discourage large mammals from rubbing against it. Also known as “Sugarberry”, its fruits are orange to reddish brown. Many songbirds eat the fruits, as well as the insects that are attracted to the tree – insect galls are common on the leaves, and Sugar Hackberry is the larval and nectar host for several butterflies and moths. The leaves are 2 to 4 inches long, lance-shaped, with a smooth upper and lower surface, and gradually tapering to a point that is often curved. Native Americans used the bark, leaves, and fruits for medicine, dye, and food. Frequently parasitized by mistletoe.


Panicum virgatum

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. One of the “Big Four” grasses of the American tallgrass prairie. This native bunchgrass grows in vase-like clumps 3 to 6 feet tall and is excellent protective cover for a variety of wildlife. Dove, quail, turkey, and songbirds enjoy the seeds in fall and winter and use grass parts for denning and nesting material. It is a larval food source for the Delaware Skipper, Least Skipper, and Northern Broken Dash butterflies. Due to its size and root system, switchgrass is used along waterways to control erosion.

Tall Goldenrod

Solidago altissima

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Goldenrod plants are clump-forming, perennial wildflowers. They provide shelter for the larvae of beneficial insects and nectar for migrating butterflies, bees, beetles, and solitary wasps. It is a late bloomer, flowering in the late summer throughout the fall. Stunning small, bright yellow flowers along the upper side branches form feathery plumes. Often blamed for hay fever because it blooms at the same time as ragweed, Tall Goldenrod is pollinated by insects whereas ragweed pollen is windborne. The Latin genus name Solidago means “to make whole” and alludes to the curative powers attributed to the plant. The flowers are also used in making a yellow dye.


Cylindropuntia leptocaulis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This cholla is an upright, shrub-like plant ranging from 2 to 5 feet tall. Narrow, spiny branches are jointed and cylindrical. New growth is dark green in the spring and covered in tiny leaves that fall off when the pad fully expands. The branches and trunk become woody with age. Contains both rigid spines about an inch long and glochids, tiny barbed, hair-like spines. Flowers are small, attractive, and pale yellow. Bright red, edible fruits are especially attractive in the winter. Also known as “Pencil Cactus” or “Christmas Cactus”.

Texas Kidneywood

Eysenhardtia texana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This deciduous shrub grows 3 to 10 feet tall on dry limestone soil in full sun or partial shade. It has many trunks and an airy, irregular shape. The crushed leaves have a strong aroma. Texas Kidneywood and similar species were used to treat kidney and bladder ailments. Pioneers also used the wood for dyes. Other common names include “Bee Brush” and “Palo Dulce”. “Dulce” is the Spanish word for “sweet” and refers to the flowers which attract bees. Blooms intermittently from May to October. Texas Kidneywood is a larval host plant for the Southern Dogface and Arizona Skipper butterflies.

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Texas Lantana

Lantana urticoides

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A spreading, many-branched, drought-resistant perennial shrub with opposite leaves that is frequently found throughout most of Texas. Young twigs are nearly square and covered in small hairs. Flowers are tubular in shape and in rounded clusters, appearing April to October. The flowers start out yellow and turn red with age. Fruits are round, fleshy, and dark blue to black and are a good food source for birds. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies because it is a good nectar source. Its generally pungent aroma and taste protect it from browsing deer. Great plant for the landscape.

Texas Persimmon

Diospyros texana

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A small tree or shrub with very hard wood and leathery leaves with smooth edges that roll under. Has a light gray, smooth, thin bark that sometimes peels off exposing a lighter layer underneath. Small, fragrant, white flowers appear February through June. Dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants, with fruit only forming on the female plants. The sweet, edible fruit is small, rarely more than one inch in diameter, and turns black when ripe in late July into September. Settlers used the juice to dye leather. Fruit is favored by deer and small mammals.

Texas Redbud

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This beautiful and useful native tree is often used in landscaping. It grows fast, has few pests, tolerates drought, and can withstand the scorching Texas sun, though it prefers dappled shade. Its pink-purple blossoms are some of the first to appear in the spring. Early settlers would fry and eat the blooms and tender new seedpods. The fresh flowers are also good in salads. Redbud blossoms provide nectar for bees, butterflies, moths, and insects. The seeds provide food for birds. The tree serves as a larval host plant for the Henry’s Elfin butterfly.

Texas Red Oak

Quercus buckleyi

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A deciduous oak tree with red or brown fall foliage. Young bark is dark grey and smooth, but older branches and lower trunk will be furrowed. Leaves are deeply divided into about seven lobes with bristle-tipped ends. Native to an area from south-central Texas to north-central Oklahoma, it is also known as “Spanish Oak”. Habitat is associated with limestone ridges, slopes, and creek bottoms; it is an important source of insects for the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Provides large numbers of acorns which are valuable as food for wildlife. Unfortunately, Texas Red Oak is highly susceptible to oak wilt, a fungal disease that is killing many Hill Country oaks.

Texas Walnut

Juglans microcarpa

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A deciduous shade tree, usually only up to 20 feet tall. Leaflets are narrow, yellow-green, strongly aromatic, and turn yellow in the fall. With the smallest nuts of any walnut, Texas Walnut is also called “Little Walnut” or “Nogalito”. Nuts are consumed by squirrels and other rodents. Native Americans and early settlers used juice from the nut husks for medicinal purposes and as a dark brown dye. Twigs have a chambered pith, versus the solid pith found in Pecan and hickories. Usually found growing in a variety of soils from rocky, lime-based soils to loam and clay soils. Larval host to the Banded Hairstreak butterfly. Birds use the tree for nesting sites and cover.

Texas Wintergrass

Nassella leucotricha

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Texas Wintergrass, also known as “Speargrass” or “Texas Needlegrass”, is a perennial, cool season bunch grass that grows 1 to 2 feet tall. It was part of the original grasslands of Texas. Birds and wildlife use parts of the grass as denning and nesting material, and birds eat the seeds. It provides fair grazing for livestock and wildlife when not in bloom, but can cause mouth wounds to animals if eaten at the wrong time, due to the sharp, needle-like spikelets that protect its fruits. When properly thrown, as past generations of children knew, the spikelets can easily penetrate clothing and stick to skin, like little spears.

Toothache Tree

Zanthoxylum hirsutum

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A shrub or small tree that is found in open areas and woodland edges. When crushed, the leaves have a slight orange peel odor. Fruit is round, turning reddish brown when ripe. Host plant for the Giant Swallowtail butterfly. Prominent thorns are on older wood and prickles are on the leaves. Other common names are “Tickle Tongue” and “Prickly Ash”. Called “Toothache Tree” because chewing the leaves or bark produces numbness in the mouth and tongue, thus reducing the pain of a toothache.

Turk’s Cap

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Usually found growing in the shade at the margins of woods near rivers and streams. A loose, herbaceous shrub 2 to 4 feet tall. A good ornamental plant for the landscape that blooms throughout the summer. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies alike. Bright red, hibiscus-like flowers that never fully open resemble a Turkish fez or turban, hence the common name. Also known as “Manzanilla”, the red, five-lobed fruit capsules look and taste like apples and are also eaten by wildlife. A member of the mallow plant family.

Twist-leaf Yucca

Yucca rupicola

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Endemic to the Edwards Plateau, growing primarily in its southeastern area. Favors both rocky, limestone hillsides and grassy flats. Narrow, undulate, olive-green leaves twist as they age. Leaf margins can be yellow, orange, or red with minute sharp teeth. Fragrant, white, bell-shaped blossoms on a single, tall flower spike attract night-pollinating moths. Grows in sun or partial shade and is useful for planting on rocky slopes or sites with poor, dry soil over rock. “Rupicola” means “lover of rock”.

Virginia Creeper

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A native, perennial vine or ground cover. Climbs by tendrils, with adhesive-like disks, that fasten onto surfaces. Leaves usually contain five leaflets radiating from the tip of the stem, although it is often mistaken for Poison Ivy which only has three leaflets. Leaves provide early fall color, turning red, orange, and maroon. Round fruit is about 1/4 inch in diameter and bluish. Although the fruit is eaten by many species of birds, it is poisonous to humans. A larval host for several species of sphinx moths. Can be used to climb walls, columns, arbors, and screens without damaging structures because of the lack of penetrating rootlets.

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Virginia Wild Rye

Elymus virginicus

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Virginia Wild Rye is a cool season, perennial bunch grass similar to, but smaller than, Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis), growing to about 3 feet tall. Its seed heads are erect rather than drooping, and deer find it palatable, two ways in which it differs from Canada Wild Rye. It is used as a food source by granivorous birds and small mammals. It prefers shade and moist soil. It can hybridize with E. canadensis, making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

Wafer Ash

Ptelea trifoliata

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Usually an understory tree, but it is also found growing at the edges of woods or along creek drainages. The wood is heavy, hard, and attractive, and the spring flowers are very fragrant. Early settlers desperate for a drink substituted the wafer-like fruits for true hops in beer-making, giving rise to another common name, “Hoptree”. A member of the citrus family, it is also known as “Skunk Bush” because of the distinctive odor emitted when the leaves are crushed, and so it is also deer resistant. A larval host plant for swallowtail butterflies.

Western Ragweed

Ambrosia psilostachya

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Western Ragweed is a native, warm-season perennial, common in Texas. Its flowers are wind pollinated and a prime source of fall allergies in North America. Its many-branched stems can grow from 1 to 3 feet tall. Leaves are thick, gray-green, hairy or bristly, and deeply lobed. The greenish-yellow flowers bloom from late summer through fall on a central flowering stalk at the top of the plant. Western Ragweed provides forage for deer, and its seeds are an important food source for birds. Also known as “Perennial Ragweed”. Native Americans made a medicinal tea from the leaves and used it to relieve swelling and to treat intestinal cramps and colds. A salve made from the leaves was used to treat skin sores on humans and horses.

Western Soapberry

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Western Soapberry, also known as “Jaboncillo”, may grow to 40 feet tall in an urban setting, but in the wild it generally reaches only 15 – 20 feet tall. It tends to form thickets, but it thrives in many types of soils and rainfall patterns. The translucent, yellow berries, which remain on the tree through the winter, contain saponin and have been used as a hand and laundry soap. Birds eat the berries, but they are toxic to humans. Long, compound leaves often lack a terminal leaflet and turn bright yellow in the fall.

White Mulberry

Morus alba

TX Invasives, USDA NRCS. The underside of the variably-shaped leaves of this non-native tree only have hairs on the largest veins. This tree originated in China and its leaves are the primary food source for silkworms. Often planted for shade and windbreaks, the trunk can grow up to three feet across. White Mulberry easily escapes cultivation because many species of birds and small mammals eat the white and pink berries. It can be highly aggressive, crowding out desirable native species. This exotic tree should never be planted in your landscape.

White Shin Oak

Quercus sinuata var. breviloba

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. Also called “Bigelow Oak”. Generally a shrub or small tree. Usually forms thickets (“shinneries”) on flat-topped limestone hills, but it can also grow up to 30 feet tall in deep soil. Distinguished by the light gray, scaly, flaking bark along the trunk. Leaves are irregularly-shaped and slightly lobed, up to three inches long. Produces acorns that are eaten by birds, deer, and rodents. Larval host plant for the Horace’s Duskywing and hairstreak butterflies. Provides nesting sites and cover for birds, including the formerly endangered Black-capped Vireo.

“Williamson County” Winecup

Callirhoe involucrata var. lineariloba

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. A sprawling, perennial, spring-blooming plant growing 6 to 12 inches tall, with trailing stems up to 18 inches long. It is found in open grassy areas. Rosettes remain green in the winter. This particular variety has petals that are pure white or white with a reddish-purple streak down the center. Endemic to a few counties in central Texas, including Williamson County. A member of the mallow plant family, it is a larval host plant for the Gray Hairstreak butterfly.

Yellow Passionflower

Passiflora lutea

LBJWC, USDA NRCS. This plant has one of the smallest and most delicate blossoms of our native passion vines. It blooms from May to September. The fruit is a marble-sized berry that turns deep purple when ripe. This vine is usually found in moist environments and can grow to be 15 feet in length. A distinguishing characteristic is that its three lobed leaves are wider than they are long. Yellow Passionflower is a host plant for Heliconian and Fritillary butterflies, and its pollen is the only known larval foodstuff of the Passionflower Bee.

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