Houston: Mercer Botanical Gardens (Six on Saturday #32)

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

Erythrina crista-galli, one of the parents of Erythrina x. bidwillii

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.

Huge, hot-pink flowers of Lagerstroemia speciosa
Stachytarpheta mutabilis (coral porterweed)

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.

6 thoughts on “Houston: Mercer Botanical Gardens (Six on Saturday #32)

  1. Gosh, that’s a bulky looking lizard, although maybe it’s just the close-up photo.

    I attended a lecture/slide show about the effects of Hurricane Harvey on New York City’s pier gardens. It was interesting (and a bit distressing, of course). The gardeners learned a lot from what survived the salt water flooding and what did not.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That palm sure died ugly. It is not easy to kill a palm! Erythrina crista-galli is something I have not seen in quite a while. They are more popular in the Los Angeles region, but even there, they are not as popular as they once were. They grew up fast and fell apart, so no one wants to plant new ones.

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  3. Amazing photos as always, Nick: the color of Erythrina is breathtaking! I also liked the Lagerstroemia speciosa, different from the common species that I grow here. About this palm, that’s what happened to one of mine. I grew a Canarian palm tree from seeds. It was about 6 years old and planted in the ground. With all the winter protection I gave, it died and looked like this… (which is older for sure)

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  4. 8′ of water . . . how devastating for everyone. And yet, nature is returning at its own pace. Such lovely photos you’ve given us. Especially loved the rain lilies & erythrina. The latter looks like red maple seed pods. And the little anole. Wonder where they hid during the flooding? Imagine tons of wildlife were lost. Thanks for the thought provoking Six.

    Liked by 1 person

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