Summer dormancy is a time when most plants shut down and their metabolism slows. During hot, dry summer months there is no new growth, and many plants drop their leaves or restrict water transport to the leaves, turning them yellow. However, there are certain native plants that have adapted to our arid Texas summer and have evolved to tolerate the heat and lack of water. Elbowbush, Forestiera pubescens, is one of these amazing native species.
The branches of an elbowbush shrub grow off the main stem at a 90° angle, giving them the appearance of a bent human arm at the elbow. The thin vine-like limbs are curving and looping giving the shrub a straggling, irregular appearance. Small twigs grow directly opposite each other off the branches, allowing the shrub to form dense thickets. This provides excellent cover for bobwhites as well as ideal nesting sites for endangered black-capped vireos.
Elbowbush flowers are delicate and greenish-yellow in color; they appear in clusters right before new leaf growth, usually in late winter to early spring. These non-showy flowers are some of the first to bloom in the new season and provide a great source of spring nectar for insects. Male and female flowers are diecious, meaning they grow on separate plants. The female bushes produce small single-seeded drupes, a fleshy fruit with a pit or stone in the center. These berries fully mature by summer and are enjoyed by quail, turkey, songbirds and small mammals.
Come take a walk through the gardens this week and see if you can identify Elbowbush.
Republished with permission of the Goldthwaite Eagle. By Savannah Lane.