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August 2010 cover image Franklin Mountains

Flora Fact: Texas Frogfruit

It might not grab your attention at first, but Texas frogfruit could just find a place in your wildscape.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Two summers ago, while touring the native gardens at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, a familiar-looking patch of low, leggy ground cover with tiny whitish flowers caught my eye. I stopped and leaned down for a closer look at the nameplate: “Texas frogfruit((Phyla nodiflora)).”

“That’s a plant?” I exclaimed, staring dumbfounded at my husband, James. “I remember seeing that as a kid in Corpus Christi. Heck, I never even thought about it having a real name.”

Photo by Larry Ditto

A week or so later, I spotted some frogfruit growing on the edge of our street in Blanco. Excited, I gently pulled a runner up and transplanted it into one of our flowerbeds. Since our visit to the wildflower center, frogfruit has risen in rank from lowly weed to esteemed native species in our Texas wildscape.

Research further strengthened the case for frogfruit. According to Geyata Ajilvsgi’s Wildflowers of Texas, “the larvae of the beautiful little phaon crescent butterfly use the leaves as their major food source.” So do white peacock larvae. Butterflies sip nectar from the flowers, which are teeny-tiny in size and clustered tightly together on a brown-tipped stalk.

A hardy perennial, frogfruit — also called turkey tangle fogfruit — ranges across the southern half of the U.S. in moist or dry habitats. It spreads quickly by runners and can form dense mats. The species belongs to the verbena family, which makes it kin to Texas lantana, prairie verbena and vervain. (Factoid: The verbena family also includes teak, vitex and American beautyberry.)

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