Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Texas Native Plant Week at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

This week, October 20 through 26, 2013, is the fifth annual Texas Native Plant Week. Instead of posting more pictures of the native plants growing in my garden, I thought I would share pictures of some of the native plants I found growing at the Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve in Plano.


This was my visit to Oak Point on the east side of Plano. I arrived at 9 AM on a warm September morning and spent a couple of hours exploring a small portion of this 800 acre park.


Upon parking the car, the first things that caught my attention were the large prickly pear cactus plants in the parking lot medians.


The pads were covered in red fruit and spines. The plants were menacing, yet beautiful. I looked around for a broken pad to take home and start my own plant. I am not sure why because I can be somewhat accident prone and it would not be any fun trying to remove dead tree leaves that would inevitably gather in and around the prickly plants. I am not sure if this particular variety of Opuntia is native to Texas, but the parking lot plantings did include Texas natives, such as Mexican Feather Grass, Gregg's Mistflower, Zexmenia, Red Yucca, and Flame Acanthus. Non-native plants included Russian Sage and Fountain Grass.


Before I entered the park, I spent some time exploring the grassy area next to the parking lot. I was sure I would get chiggers from tromping through the grasses, but tromp I did. There were several prairie grasses growing in this area. I was able to identify Sideoats Grama in the lower left portion of this photo and the plumes of Indian Grass in the right center of the photo. It looks like this area was probably mowed a couple of months earlier.


Switchgrass is in the center of this photo. The blue flowers in the upper left corner are Pitcher Sage.


The Pitcher Sage was a little over a foot tall due to being mowed earlier in the year. When my plants are not cut back, they grow to about four feet tall.


Non-native Johnson Grass grows to the left of Indian Grass which is in the center of this photo. There was also quite a bit of Bermuda grass.


There were several patches of Purple Prairie Clover in this area. I also saw a couple of White Prairie Clover plants.


While trying to get a picture of the Purple Prairie Clover, I ended up focusing on a Little Blue butterfly.


I am pretty sure this is Maximillian Sunflower. They are probably in full bloom by now.


CollageMama often writes about her visits to this park. Through her posts, I found out that Illinois Bundleflower grows there. One of the things I wanted to do while at the park was to try to locate a plant and, possibly, some seeds. As it turns out, Illinois Bundleflower is everywhere in the park. Now I am not sure that I want it growing in my garden. None the less, I collected several seeds. The brown clusters in the photo above are little beans which house the seeds.


I think Illinois Bundleflower normally blooms earlier in the season. I was fortunate to find this one in bloom.


After 30 minutes or so in the parking lot, I finally approached the main entrance to the park.


This structure houses restrooms and a water fountain. A pavilion with picnic tables is on the opposite side of the main pathway. The lake is visible in the background.


For this visit, I thought I would stick to the paved pathway around the lake. Though not visible in this photo, there were several bikers and joggers on the paved pathway.



The edges of the pathway are mowed to keep nature from getting too close. I frequently ventured into the unmowed areas because that was where the interesting plants were.


I will travel down this side path another day.


A couple of Standing Cypress plants were preparing to bloom next to the pathway.


A sign reminds visitors not to disturb the wildlife. Birds, squirrels, fish and insects were the only wildlife I observed.


The sun was already bright, so some of my photos were worse than usual. This is one one of them. At the edge of the wooded area, I noticed some False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa,
 bushes, but the plant that drew my attention to the area was the six foot tall one with the white flowers.


It looked like a giant Gaura. I had never seen one of this size. The garden plants and wildflowers that you see along roadsides are usually no more than two feet tall. After some research, I think this is Longflower Beeblossom, Gaura longiflora.


Inland Seaoats grass grows at the edge of the woods as well.


I saw several patches of Prairie Verbena along the pathway.


The tree, 
Maclura pomifera, is know by several common names, Osage Orange, Bois d' Arc, Bodark, Horse Apple, and Hedge Apple. The wood of the tree is extremely hard and the inedible fruits are said to repel cockroaches.


This is the entrance to one of the natural trail systems through the woods.


I stepped inside for a brief look around. The air felt considerably cooler when shaded from the sun. It makes me wonder why I have a prairie garden rather than a woodland garden. I will explore these trails on another day.


Canada Wild Rye grows in the shade of the trees.


Back at the lake, a Great Blue Heron was fishing for breakfast. He did not seem to mind all of the joggers and bikers passing by. As I slowly approached to get a better picture...


He flew to the other side of the lake.


He is over there somewhere. At the bottom of this photo are the yellow flowers of 
Buffalo Bur, Solanum rostratum.


This is a prickly plant in the nightshade family.



I thought the fruit of this unknown-to-me plant was interesting.


This was another plant I did not recognize.


It is not overly attractive, but I thought it was interesting. After the pink flower falls off, the pentagon shaped structure remains with a seed in the center. I collected a couple of seeds to see if I could start this plant in my garden. I hope it is not an invasive weed. Update: Thanks to a post on Window on a Texas Wildscape, I think I can identify this plant as a native Four O'clock, Mirabilis linearis.


A clump of Pickerel Weed grows at the edge of the water.


Another path for another visit. I traveled as far as the information sign to the left.



The sign describes the blackland prairie and some of the plants and animals that once resided here (some still do).



Looking up from the sign is a grove of trees and prairie beyond.



This is not a pristine prairie for sure. It is a remnant at best. Much of the short grass is Bermuda. This would be quite a sight if the invasive species were removed and the original prairie species were allowed to grow (and not be mowed mid-summer). The park is in the news right now because the city has contracted to hold an annual weekend music festival in the park and preservationists are concerned about its effects on the prairie and the wildlife. Evidently, there is a purer parcel of prairie not far from this spot that could be damaged.






Back on the lake side of the pathway, I saw several butterflies hovering low and landing on some plants. I had to investigate. The butterflies were Monarchs and the plant was some sort of milkweed vine. I think Cynanchum laeve. The Monarchs were feeding on the flowers and laying eggs at the same time. Apparently, this is an extremely aggressive native plant, so maybe not a good candidate for my garden.


It was nice to see so many Texas native plants, like this Switchgrass, growing wild in Plano. I hope the city continues to preserve these plant species and they do not become victims of "progress". I wonder if any of the bikers and joggers ever slow down and take the time to notice the nature around them. 



At this point, it was about 11:00 and I completed my route around the lake. It was starting to get pretty warm (hot) and the pathways that were filled with bikers and joggers were practically empty now. On the way back to the car, I found this pathetic looking cactus pad. 


I took it home and planted it in a pot. Here is how it looks a little over a month later. I wonder what I will do with a prickly pear cactus?

30 comments:

  1. Glad you got out to explore Oak Point. If you start on the other side of the creek you will find another group of plants. Thank you for the name of Pickerel Weed!

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    1. Thanks Collagemama, I will look for that area on my next visit. I also want to find this prairie remnant that people are concerned about. A commenter on the Morning News article said it was bounded by Old Morton Vale and Los Rios.
      Back in the days when I had a pond, I grew pickerel weed. It is a great marginal for water gardens. Bees love the flowers.

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  2. If you enjoy longer walks you should check out the giant sycamore on the Trinity Trail. I think it was 9 miles round trip for that section to get up to the tree, but the hike was wonderful---lots of native things to see. It's been about two years since we went, you can search for it on my blog if you are interested.

    http://www.trinitytrailriders.org/trail-head-info/highland-park/

    Your unknown purple flowered plant you are hoping isn't invasive, almost looks like Solanum elaeagnifolium or a similar species.

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    1. The Trinity Trail sounds interesting Misti. I will look for your post. I don’t think that particular plant is Solanum elaeagnifolium. I did see some with yellow fruits. The unknown flower does not produce a fleshy fruit. It just has the one seed in the center of the flower.

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  3. I've been working on creating a meadow and I have a big interest in reviving the native grass species on my property. I had convinced myself that because my land was pretty raw that I would not find invasives, but that is not the case. I think our efforts to control weeds by mowing probably hurt more than anything. How does one learn to identify native grass species vs invasive species? Is there a book you would recommend?

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    1. Ally, Sally Wasowski’s book, Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region has a section on native grasses. There is only one photo per grass but it will give you grass names so you can search the internet if you need additional photos to make an ID. You could probably check a book on growing lawns to identify the weed grasses and lawn grasses that you may not want in your garden.

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    2. Thanks a lot Michael. The crazy thing is I have this book, but I have not looked at in years. Searching my shelves, I found 2 more native plants books. That should keep me busy while I look for the 2 other books you recommended. I have a particular grass I'm trying to id. I call it tumbleweed grass because the panicles are large, loose and airy. When they eventually break away from the grass clump, they blow around like tumbleweeds. Sound familiar?

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    3. I am not sure what that grass is, Ally. I bet somebody could tell you if you posted a picture.

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    4. Ally, the Samuel Noble Foundation has an online resource (http://www.noble.org/apps/plantimagegallery/ ) area that contains photos of many of the grasses native to North Texas and Oklahoma. Their area of interest is limited to a relatively small geographical area, so that helps narrow down the choices.

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  4. Those prickly pears are beautiful. I'm pretty sure that's the same species I got off of my in-laws land in Evant. And I can't imagine it was planted by anyone. I actually have worse luck with the "spineless" variety. The fact that one has visible thorns makes my dog and children give them a wide bearth. Whearas we went through a period with my youngest where she kept touching the spineless one.

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    1. Tim, thanks for the info on the cactus. I will do some research and see if I can make an ID. Those spineless prickly pear almost beg to be touched because it seems that there are no spines, but those tiny glochids are irritating to the skin and hard to remove. Mine spineless has done very well. It looks like my spiny one will do well too.

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    2. Tim, don't you have a garden blog? I think I have seen it before. It is not listed on your blogger profile.

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    3. I think this is the Tim I know who is a blogger in Austin. His blog is: http://xeric-front-yard.tumblr.com/

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    4. Thanks. That is the one I was thinking of. I lost track of the link.

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  5. I have been involved in the Oak Point prairie preservation effort, and I would be glad to show you the area in question. From your photos, it doesn't appear that you made it out that far.

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    1. Thanks Carol. Perhaps next weekend if the weather is nice? I stayed close to the lake, so I am pretty sure I did not make it to the area in question.

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    2. Nest week would be great. I can also help you ID some of those "mystery" plants. Winter birds are pretty much in, so there should be some birds to see too.

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    3. Carol, I will try to contact you through Google+. I have not used it before so I am not sure it is possible.

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    4. You can find an email for me on the NPSOT webpage that our chapter has up. It hasn't been updated since I've been promoted to President of the chapter (got to see about that!), but I am under board members, Director at Large. When you hover, or click, I'm not sure it opens an email box, but my correct address shows in the bar at the bottom of my screen, and hopefully yours. Here's the sequence: Go to: www.npsot.org; Click Chapters tab; Select chapter 8, Collin County chapter; go to Officers tab; scroll down until you see my name. That should work.

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  6. Another place to explore when I'm in Plano and need to see something other than manicured lawn and sheared yaupons.

    Good detailed tour, that Bermuda has to go. Pitcher sage is so pretty, I'll check to see if it works here. It would be fun to see the preservation efforts underway in the other parts of the park. Hope they can make a deal to keep traffic out of the preserved prairie and wooded areas.

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    1. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out with the music festival. This is the same park where they hold the annual balloon festival. I don't know why they could not use that area for the music event as well.
      I bet the pitcher sage would work for you. The flowers are a true blue and not purplish blue.

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  7. I bought the pitcher sage at the WFC sale a couple of weeks ago. they only had a few and they were gone in a flash. I am glad to see it growing well in the wild in Plan because my concern was about how it would do in my 'frost bucket' garden. It's small but flowering already. Glad you enjoyed your day in the park.

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    1. Pitcher sage seems to be pretty tough and variable. I acquired three plants from three different locations and each one has different grow habits. I even had one produce a white flowered seedling.

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  8. I'm so thrilled about this magic in Plano! Now I'll check it out the next time I'm up your way. And thank you for promoting Texas Native Plant Week. And this weekend, I planted seeds for my backyard prairie, including that verbena!

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    1. Linda, I am excited about Carol's offer to show me the prairie at Oak Point. I am sure I will have some pictures to share. I look forward to hearing more about your backyard prairie.

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  9. Nice tour, Michael, I just dug some more pithcer sage today in the wild for another try. Thanks.

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    1. No luck with the wild pitcher sage Randy? I can probably dig a couple of mine to go with that beebrush if you are interested.

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  10. As most remnant prairies are surrounded by novel ecosystems and noxious, exotic species, it is no surprise that most of them are degraded to some degree.

    The one at Plano Prairie Garden looks moderately degraded just judging by the pics. A simple prescribed burning and overseeding program done annually or every other year for 3-5 years will help that area greatly. The Bermudagrass and Johnsongrass will need to be sprayed with glyphosate on a spot-treatment basis, as both respond to fire aggressively. But if the people of the area complain about fire, then I guess they can do without the endangered prairie.

    Can't have prairie without fire.

    You have a very nice blog, I need to link to it on my blog.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jameson. "Plano Prairie Garden" is my front yard, converted from St. Augustine and Bermuda lawn. The photos in this post were at Oak Point Preserve and I assume that is what you were referring to. There is another section of Oak Point that has more prairie species. I had two additional posts about this area on November 26 and December 11, 2013. There will be a music festival held just a few feet away this spring. You never know. There may be a fire if a stray cigarette hits the dry grass.

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  11. you can grow them and they are quite tasty...just take off the thorns

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