Barren landscapes in Galveston, Texas are now thriving with new varieties after Hurricane Ike spread seeds to the area.
Hurricane Ike's storm surge smothered lawns, stripped shrubs, and left thousands of island trees for dead when it swept ashore last year. But the sludge-filled floodwaters deposited an unexpected consolation for Galveston residents mourning the loss of their greenery.
As soon as spring's warmer weather could coax new growth from the barren landscape, volunteer fruits, vegetables, trees, and flowers started to sprout in yards all across the island. The seeds were scattered to their new spots by the unstoppable surge.
Tiny grape tomatoes and melon plants are the most common addition to the island's landscape.
Although his tomato vines withered in the August heat, Burke Evans is waiting anxiously to harvest several watermelons and a cantaloupe. The fruit, cupped by colorful plaid bras, hangs from vines that staked their claim to his front yard several months ago.
Mr. Evans was surprised and delighted when he discovered the additions to his garden.
"When I realized I'd lost my trees, I needed something to cheer me up," he says.
Ike also left Evans beds of periwinkles, several papaya trees, and a few elephant ears, plants he tried unsuccessfully to grow before the storm.
While the more common plants probably came from other island yards, Evans thinks the tiny tomatoes might have come all the way from the Caribbean.
"Other people out here on the East End have had that same little tomato," he says. "No one recognized it, and then I heard by word of mouth that they had come from Cuba. I'm willing to believe that, but I don't know that it's true."
Experts cannot verify Evans' claim, but the unknown origin of the volunteer plants hasn't kept gardeners from enjoying them.
Pam Gilbert had jalapenos in her yard earlier this year and now is enjoying petunias popping up in colors she never planted before and in places she never planted them. She's also reveling in a Mulberry tree that already is 9 feet tall. Ms. Gilbert values the tree even more because it's one of the only ones on the block that's green.
Hurricane Ike killed about 40,000 trees on the island, three-quarters of which are on private property.