Mercer Botanical Gardens are located north of downtown Houston, very close to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I had visited the gardens once before, about seventeen years ago, but remembered very little, so during our recent trip to Houston, I took the opportunity to renew my acquaintance.
I had forgotten about Hurricane Harvey. During the flooding last year, the gardens were submerged under eight feet of muddy, polluted water. Clearly the floods did a lot of damage, and just as clearly the gardens employees and volunteers have been working very hard to repair the damage. This article from the Houston Chronicle describes the devastation, and a google image search will show you what the gardens once were. These six pictures will give you a little taste of what the gardens are now, and a hint of what they will be again.
1. Dead palm tree
Some of the garden grounds were still closed off, and in the open areas damaged plants were still visible. After the flooding, last winter included an unusually prolonged cold spell in the Houston area, which probably did not help the tender palms. Virtually all of those that were still alive had damaged fronds, but that damage is temporary. I’m not sure if this palm tree was left in the ground because the staff had been overwhelmed, or if they were waiting to see if it might resprout.
2. Zephyranthes (rain lilies)
Many of the plants that seemed to be in the best conditions were tropical bulbs and rhizomes, particularly those that tolerate wet soil (crinum, gingers, etc). Presumably, these plants resisted being washed away by the flood, and any top damage was easily replaced. I saw an enormous clump of Hymenocallis caribaea, unfortunately not blooming, that was in prime condition, but the best flowers were on these unlabeled Zephyranthes. They were blooming all by themselves in a rock garden area that appeared to have been recently renovated but not yet replanted.
3-5. Tropical shrubs and trees
Although many of the beds are thus far, still fairly barren, splashes of color from vigrous perennials and fast growing tropical trees and shrubs hint at how spectacular the gardens will be again in a few years.
6. Anolis sagrei (brown anole)
The gardens were swarming with little brown anoles. A. sagrei is native to Cuba and the Bahamas, and it is an invasive species in the southeastern U.S. where it often replaces the native Anolis carolinensis (green anole). My parents’ garden south of Houston still has green anoles, but I didn’t see a single native lizard at Mercer.
So, that’s Six on Saturday and a very brief look at Mercer as it is now. For more Six on Saturday, head over to the blog of The Propagator, who started this weekly exercise and collects links from other participants.