Attract Hummingbirds All Summer with Texas Red Yucca

Hesperaloe parviflora

More effective at attracting hummingbirds than a feeder, the Texas Red Yucca is also a nectar source for butterflies and native bees.  A member of the Century Plant family, the Texas Red Yucca thrives in our hot Texas summer, though it’s cold tolerant enough to survive freezing temperatures.

With low watering requirements after establishment, this striking perennial evergreen shrub produces dramatic 3-4 foot spikes of pink, coral or red tubular flowers. These beautiful flower spikes provide focal interest in landscape beds, large containers, rock gardens or as a single specimen plant. Each bloom produces a seed capsule which dries to offer winter interest in the landscape. The evergreen leaves turn a deep shade of purple in cold weather, further enhancing the garden.

Thriving in full sun to part shade and needing only natural rainfall, this plant is adaptable to any soil. Maintenance is minimal requiring optional removal of the dried flower spike before spring begins. Planting this succulent in your landscape or a large container will provide beautiful blooms from May through October. Texas Red Yucca is readily available in most local plant nurseries as well as those specializing in Texas natives. Enjoy this easy to grow plant along with the hummingbirds and other pollinators it will draw into your garden.

Looking for more native and pollinator plants for your landscape?

These pollinators aren’t winning any beauty contests

Bees and butterflies – the beauty queens of bugs – have reached celebrity status in the world of pollination. But, while they get the limelight, they’re only a small portion of the over 200,000 species that help produce our crops.  These less adorable species include beetles, ants, moths, wasps and even flies. More than 80% of all flowering plants in the world require the service of pollinators, along with more than 1,200 commercial crops. Without pollinators, we lose 1 out of every 3 bites of food and more than $20 billion of the US economy.

Awareness of the decline of the monarch butterfly and the honeybee has spurred communities across the country into action to ensure their survival.  But what about the less celebrated? 

Let’s take a look at some of these unsung garden heroes.


Hover Flies

Hover Flies, also known as Syrphid Flies, are a large group of medium to large flies with black or brown bodies, yellow banded abdomens and two wings.  Resembling a bee or wasp, adults can be seen hovering above flowers, feeding on their nectar. They can’t bite or sting but may try to steal some of your salty sweat from time to time. The larvae play a beneficial role in gardens, consuming up to 30 aphids per day – a great natural pest control. Hover flies feed on the same flowers preferred by bees, such as purple coneflowers, blanketflowers and sunflowers.

Black and yellow stripes don’t always belong to bees. Hover flies can easily be mistaken for bees but these petite pollinators don’t have stingers.

Hawk Moths

Experts at finding sweet-smelling flowers at night, hawk moths have the longest tongues of any moth or butterfly  – some up to 14” long!  These acrobatic fliers include sphinx and hummingbird moths, built with stout bullet-shaped bodies and long, narrow wings.  See them mostly at night hovering in place enjoying nectar from heavily fragranced flowers. While many tomato gardeners, admittedly, fear the larvae of the hawk moth (a.k.a. green hornworms), the adults are excellent pollinators for your garden.

Hawk moths, including this Hummingbird Moth, have long tongues, or proboscis, to suck nectar from flowers, similar to a straw.

Soldier Beetles

Beetles present the greatest diversity of insects and pollinators, with more than 450,000 known species.  Regular flower visitors like the soldier beetle feed on pollen and even chew on flowers.  Solider beetles are one type of “mess and soil” pollinators, as they will defecate within flowers in the process of carrying pollen from one flower to another.  Soldier Beetles are commonly seen on flowers that are strongly fruity and open during the day such as marigolds, magnolias and many flowering herbs.    

Beetles have been pollinators for millions of years.  Based on fossil records, they were among the first insects to visit flowering plants as far back as 150 million years ago.

Ten Things You Can Do in Your Yard to Encourage Pollinators

1. Plant a pollinator garden—provide nectar and feeding plants (flowers and herbs).  Visit our website for more information on planting a pollinator garden or register your existing garden.

2. Provide a water source—place shallow dishes of water in sunny areas or create a muddy spot.

 3. Provide shelter and overwintering habitat (bee boxes, undisturbed soil areas, and piles of woody debris).

4. Stop using insecticides and reduce other pesticides.

5. Provide sunny areas out of the wind.

6. Use native plant species whenever possible—mimic local natural areas.

7. Grow flowers throughout season. Provide a variety of colors and shapes.

 8. Plant in clumps and layers. Use trees, shrub layers, with some low growing perennials and vines—intermix with flowering annuals.

9. Use compost instead of commercial fertilizers.

 10. Look but do not touch.


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

The dilemma of protecting essential riparian buffers – how will you help?

Riparian buffers – ribbons of vegetation alongside streams and lakes – offer a host of critical ecological functions. Depending on their health, they can act as safety nets, protecting sensitive aquatic ecosystems or they can devolve into conduits for pollution and actually degrade water quality, making life difficult for aquatic organisms. Proper management is key.

“Riparian forest buffers can deliver a number of benefits including filtering nutrients, pesticides, and animal waste…stabilizing eroding banks…providing wildlife habitat and corridors…providing space for recreation.” – USDA National Agroforestry Center

What does proper management look like? For one…where these buffers lack trees, streams tend to be narrower because of encroaching grasses and other herbaceous plants. Forested riparian buffers shade out an overabundance of these less valuable, and potentially detrimental, elements. In deforested buffers, invasive plants and animals increase from the loss of habitat diversity, while native fish and other aquatic organisms decrease because of the degraded habitat.

In forested riparian buffers, the diversity of all native wildlife – frogs, turtles, beavers, birds, mammals – is full supported for food, shelter, nesting, travel corridors and species richness. Songbirds especially are best protected when buffers are wide and diverse.


To learn more about what you can do in your own landscape to protect our riparian buffers, don’t miss an online workshop on February 19, 2022 on Invasive Species. This presentation of The Woodlands Township Environmental Services will feature Ashley Morgan-Olvera, Director of Outreach and Education with Texas Invasive Species Institute at Sam Houston State University. Registration is required to receive the Zoom link to the workshop.

Yes, one person can make a difference, especially when part of a team of dedicated volunteers. You can join them!
photo courtesy of Kathie Herrick

You’re rethinking your landscape to favor bird food and habitat?

Wow, that’s awesome!

Doug Tallamy, author of  Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, wrote in a  2016 article in Bird Watcher’s Digest, “Some plants are far better at producing insect bird food than others. For example, oaks support 557 species of caterpillars (bird food) in the mid-Atlantic states alone, whereas non-native Zelkova trees from Asia support no caterpillars at all.

“Ninety percent of the insects that eat plants can only eat specific plants; if those plants are absent from our landscapes, so will be the bird food they produce. Unfortunately, this is the case in our yards and managed landscapes when we remove native plant communities that are good at making insect bird food and replace them with vast lawns and ornamental plants from other parts of the world that produce few insects in North America. This oversight must end if we want birds in our future.” 

Are you telling me you’re removing some turfgrass to make way for native plants that actually attract insects? That’s really smart of you! In case a neighbor asks you why your lawn is getting smaller, tell them a lot of research is being done on why birds are in decline, and urban landscapes are proving to have great potential to help, see the article below.

Oh, and you can also mention that people who already feed birds are the most likely to transform turf to native plants that birds need. And, by the way, many younger homeowners are getting savvy to gardening for birds, too. So, you are definitely part of the in-crowd when it comes to forgoing the “old school” vast expanse of lawn for bird and wildlife-friendly plants.

Look back at this previous article and learn more about the critical ways native plants support local bird populations.


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Twelve native trees to plant now

Which lovable, albeit grumpy, Dr. Seuss character is known for saying “I speak for the trees”?  If you guessed The Lorax, you’re right! And I’m guessing you share his love for trees, for their beauty and their tremendous environmental value.  Our woody friends reduce cooling costs, increase property values, improve air quality, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality. 

And native trees offer even more. They’re more pest and disease resistant, can handle our weather extremes, and are essential to the survival of thousands of species of local wildlife and beneficial insects. 

Selecting a native tree  

Consider the following when selecting the right native tree for you: 

  • How large will the tree be when fully grown? 
  • How much sun does the planting site receive each day? 
  • How much water does the tree need? 
  • Do you want a tree that produces flowers, fruits, nuts or fall colors? 

We’ve made it easier to select the right tree for you by including key details for each of our twelve native trees highlighted below.  Let’s start with those that need the most growing space. 

We’ve compiled information on the following five large varieties. These canopy trees, which comprise the upper layer of the forest, typically reach heights of 40-90 feet at full maturity.  Scroll through the images to learn which tree is right for you. 

Need to go smaller? Consider one of these seven understory trees which range in height from 8 to 20 feet at maturity and are generally more shade tolerant. 

Each of these native seedlings benefit local wildlife. Flowering varieties provide nectar for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Berry producing trees offer small mammals and birds a source of food. All are critical hosts for beneficial insects. 

Interested in adding some of these trees to your yard or a nearby greenspace? Come celebrate the 46th annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway on Saturday, January 29, 2022, from 9 a.m. to noon at Rob Fleming Park for free native seedlings. The twelve varieties listed above are available, while supplies last. 

You can also bring your tree planting and care questions to our Ask An Expert booth, have your photo taken with The Lorax and Puffy the Pinecone, and visit with experts to learn how to create habitat in your landscape for birds and pollinators. 


Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov