Sensational Plants

BY DREW BENNIE RGV Master Naturalist

This is the third in a series of articles about fragrant plants for landscaping. This week I will discuss native plants that have nice scents.

One of my favorite native plants is David’s Milkberry or Snowberry (Chiococca alba).

This plant is not very well known and only grows in Cameron and Hidalgo counties in Texas, although it is found in Mexico and Florida as well.

It is a little hard to use in a landscape because of the way it grows but it provides a wonderful perfume to your yard in the early mornings when blooming.

This plant isn’t exactly a vine but it grows sort of like one, sending out numerous runners from the base of the plant that grow everywhere seeking light. It can grow as a ground cover in full sun but it can be trained to grow up a trellis or another plant. I planted mine with several other native bushes to form a small tangle of plants. When the 6’ long runners pop out of the tangle and into the sun, they hang gracefully waiting for a chance to flower.

After a summer rain, the runners form clusters of small, ivory colored, bell-shaped flowers at their tips.

These flowers release their scent early in the morning but lose the scent with the rising of the sun.

My backyard smells wonderful on these special mornings. I only wish the scent lasted longer.

Gradually, these bell-shaped flower clusters form small round milk-white berries.

Mockingbirds and other birds eagerly devour these berries and within a week or so they disappear.

The plant will bloom again once it gets a good dose of water so you can encourage it to bloom by deep watering occasionally during the summer months.

Once you smell the fragrance of this plant, you will want more than one planted in your yard.

Many of our native trees also smell wonderful when in full bloom in summer.

Ebony trees and Anacua trees both are hardy native trees that burst into bloom after a summer rain.

The scent lasts several days and the flowers are attractive. Native plants also provide habitat for birds, insects and other critters.

Selecting plants that have wonderful scents can make your yard or garden a special place indeed.