Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Save the Prairie at Oak Point - Part 2

This is my second post on the prairie remnant at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve in Plano. Preservationists have been working with the city to save the prairie and as much of the surrounding wildlife habitat as possible because starting next year, Oak Point will host the Suburbia Music Festival on the grounds adjacent to the prairie and the plan is to add additional stages in subsequent years. My understanding is that the city has been very responsive to the concerns of the native plant enthusiasts and the main prairie area will be enclosed with a split rail fence. Interpretive signs will be added to educate the public on this bit of natural history.

My first visit to this prairie remnant and the surrounding area was on 11-2-13 when Carol Clark, the president of the Collin County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, showed me around. I came back on my own on 11-16-13 to see how the prairie had changed after our first freeze of the season and to see if I could locate any plants I did not notice the first time around. I also wanted to collect a few False Boneset, Brickellia eupatoroides, seeds to distribute in my garden.


This is part of the main prairie area. Even though there are no flower blooming, I really like the look of the different shades of brown of the prairie plants, the light reflecting off the fuzzy seedheads of the Liatris, the green Arkansas Yucca, and the greens and yellows of the trees in the background.



A closer look at some of the Arkansas Yucca.


A closer look at the Liatris.


Looking in the opposite direction there are more shades of brown, tan, gray, and green.


The bright yellow fruits of this plant in the Solanum family were hard to miss. The plant is in the same family as tomatoes, but not recommended for consumption because it is said to be poisonous.


The leaves of Elbow Bush, Forestiera pubescens, are turning yellow before the fall. In late winter, this will be one of the first plants to bloom and, soon after, the plant will be covered with dark purple fruits until the birds eat them.


Roughleaf Dogwood, Cornus drummondii, has white fruits at the end of red stems. I was a little surprised to see the fruit still on the small trees because they are said to be favored by many species of birds.


Most of the leaves have fallen from the larger Roughleaf Dogwoods. These shorter sucker stems were still covered in red leaves.


Looking across Los Rios Blvd, (you can't see it, but it is a two lane road situated between the two fence lines in the photo above) the brightly colored leaves of the trees in the distance caught my eye. This is the western edge of the park. In the distance is a water tower for the city of Parker.


After crossing the fences and road, I came upon this small bushy tree with leaves in shades of red, orange, and yellow. I am pretty sure this is Common Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana. Area coyotes eat the fruit.


Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra.


Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana.


By Texas standards, this was a great year for fall color. I approached this group of trees for closer inspection.


Just inside the tree line, I found this Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum, Viburnum rufidulum


Here is a closer look at the blue black fruits. I brought a few home to see if I could get them to sprout.


Many of the trees in this area were oaks. I am not sure if they are native to this area or if birds or other animals transported acorns to the area. Either way, they are quite colorful.






I did not venture into the woods on this visit, but I will on another occasion. There is a creek not too far into these woods that I would like to see.


Shelf fungus growing on a tree trunk.


Looking up into the tree canopy.


One last look at the colorful trees.


As mentioned in the prior post, much of the grass in the preserve is the exotic invasive King Ranch Bluestem. However, there are some natives trying to reestablish the prairie such as this Silver Bluestem of the Bothriochloa species. I have always liked the look of this grass and would not mind if it grew in my garden.



As I begin heading back to the car, I turn back in the opposite direction for one last look. An Arkansas Yucca is in the foreground and several red leafed Smooth Sumacs are in the background.


Just then, a Field Sparrow flew by and landed on a tree branch. It held still long enough for me to get a poorly focused photo.


Heading back to the car again, a white flower caught my eye and then another and another. Five in all. These are Spiranthes orchids. Three of them are visible in this picture at 1, 7, and 9 o'clock.


Here is a close up of one of the Spiranthes orchids.
 
Carol told me that the orchids would be easy to spot once I knew what to look for and she was right. I think it is probably much the same with the prairie remnants at Oak Point. Many people may just see a field, but once you know what to look for, there is so much more to see and discover. 

9 comments:

  1. You're right, you have to look beyond the first glance,
    you will discover many small wonderful plants that seem to want to camouflage.
    The place is really beautiful and I admire the desire to preserve it. we are already
    destroying too many natural areas in favor of the cement.
    Beautiful photos.
    Ciao
    Loretta

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  2. The color was good this year for fall. I was in Plano twice in November, driving by this area, and the foliage was great.

    Great exploration photos!

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  3. The fall color in Texas was great this year, wow!

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  4. Once you know what to look for Oak Point is a treasure chest. I'm so glad to learn about the orchids.

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  5. The fall color is spectacular - thanks for sharing that. And that little orchid....are they in the salvia or liatris family? Did you collect seeds? Do you grow these? What did you have for breakfast! ha!

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    1. Heather, it is neither Salvia or Liatris. It is Spiranthes. I do not have any and did not see seeds. They are kind of small for my garden. Breakfast was Multi Grain Cheerios.

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  6. Thanks for this post. It is as much a lesson in how to see as it is a post about the plants that need to have their own place to live. And plants are especially useful to birds and other wildlife in the fall and winter when their seeds make bountiful meals. I love the new textures and subtle colors of this time as well. You did a good job of capturing them for the rest of us.

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  7. I sure hope this can be saved. I was reading about this piece of land in some article somewhere and just thought, oh my, no no no. I'm on the board of a prairie preservation group in Nebraska (we have about 1,000 acres), and our next move is to GIS map and video market the prairie to raise awareness. The mapping would be an interactive way to see what's going on where and when, and how to use those plants in home gardens.

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    1. I know they mapped the coordinates of the last group of orchids found a few weeks ago. I do not know if other plants are plotted. Good idea though.

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