WestCave Preserve

Last Friday we headed to Austin for some diverse activities:  a little shopping, some Mexican food, a Gilbert and Sullivan production, and a visit to a grotto.

WestCave is about 40 miles west of Austin in an isolated area.

By the entrance gate is some New Gold Lantana.  I had thought it was a hybrid, but everything growing here is native.

Some Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala) in front of the main building.

As we head down, we get a glimpse of Pedernales River.  The word means flint stone.  The Spanish explorers named it to denote an area the Indians had used because it was rich with a high quality brown flint or chert.

Ball moss hanging from Live Oaks.

The moss is a Tillandsia or the type of plant that gets its nutrients from the air and is not harmful to the tree host.

Further down, Woodland Fern grows among the rich soil of tree leaf mulch.

Not sure what this plant is – maybe a type of Oakleaf Hydrangea?

The path is rough and steep.  Wish I had taken a picture of the stone stairs, but I was concentrating on staying upright.  The guide constantly reminds the group to stay on the path for our safety and to protect the preserve.

Some American or Canadian Germander (Teucrium canadense) seems to grow out of rocks.

Love the bright red of Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) flower.

At the end of the trail is the grotto area.  It seems that we’ve stepped into a mythical secret place.

What looks like a cave is just a spot under fallen rocks.

Delicate Maidenhair Fern provides more lush growth.

Standing under the large fallen rock, the dripping water forms a thin curtain.

This the actual cave that we climb into.  The rocks are wet and slippery, so I’m thankful for the wire hand holds.

The Cow Creek Limestone forming the ceiling of the cave is covered with ancient sea shells.

The humidity is so high that by the time we leave this area, we’re soaked with sweat.

But I take the time to take photos of these two dragonflies.

I’ve never seen a red-orange one before.  Glad one stopped darting around long enough for a photo to be taken.

Two full days of activities was fun.

Have a blessed day.

“We only know a tiny proportion about the complexity of the natural world.  Wherever you look, there are still things we don’t know and don’t understand.”                          David AttenboroughSave

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Native Plant Sale

Every spring in April the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a plant sale.  Friday is members day.  We shop then because the crowd is somewhat smaller and the supplies are plentiful.

LBJjThe eager shoppers line up at least an hour before opening.  Most bring their own wagons to carry home their treasures.  The center has a few carts but recommend that people bring their own.  As they wait, people get acquainted and swap plant advice.

LBJkThe line continues even further past the archway.  The prices of the plants are okay but not fantastic.  The real draw is that only natives are sold.  Believe it or not, it’s difficult to find natives in nurseries.  Local nurseries have some but much less than here.

LBJWhile my husband holds our spot in the line, I wander around enjoying the plants.  The above Columbine is the only native one to Texas.  A solid yellow one had adapted and grows very well here.

LBJl The shape of Wild Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) flowers are unique among Texas natives and is basically a woodland plant.

LBJmThe Cross Vine (Bignonia capreolata) is in full bloom.  I’m told that it’s a very dependable showstopper.  Just love it.

LBJfI really appreciate public parks and gardens that label the trees, shrubs, and other plants.  This one also provides other useful information.

LBJeAlthough I didn’t find a label for this one, I’m pretty sure that it’s California Poppy, also known as the Golden Poppy.

LBJdMore Cross Vine.  I’m got to get me one of these.  Just need something for it to grow on.  And it needs to be big, because they grow and grow up to 50 ft. long.

It blooms from March through May in full sun or part shade and has low water needs. A friend told me that they are evergreen.   Of course, butterflies and hummingbirds love the tubular flowers.

LBJcOthers also enjoy this area of sunny plants in raised beds.

LBJaThis Eve’s Necklace (Styphnolobium affine) is larger than any that I’ve seen.  Mine was planted two years ago and is now two feet tall .  But they can grow as large as 15 to 30 feet tall and can live on limestone slopes.

LBJbThe seeds look just like they’ve been strung on a cord.  I can hear Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” in my head.  But the seeds are said to be poisonous.

LBJ6Noontime is not the best time to take pictures.  Even in this partly shaded area, the strong sun is washing out the pictures.

LBJ5Red buckeye (Aesculus pavis var. pavia) blooms from March through May along streams and creeks or in moist woodlands.

LBJ7This is not what I had pictured as Bunch Grass (Nolina texana) from the Lily Family.  But I’m sure the botanists here know.  It grows in rocky soil from Central Texas into Northern Mexico.

LBJ8The sign says it all.

LBJ9A Maidenhair Fern in a natural type setting.

LBJ2Even a fire hydrant is dressed up with Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis).

LBJ1 It’s impossible to live in Texas and not love the native flowers.  They define spring here.  Sure, most are short lived, but boy, do they fill the land with gorgeous beauty.

Thankfully, there are also some summer wildflowers that can endure the heat.

LBJiThe light is diffusing the blossoms on this tree.

LBJhThe Crab Apple (Malus angustifolia) flowers show up a little better here.  Fruit follows the flowers on this Texas native.  The wildlife enjoy the fruit, but it’s messy in a yard.

LBJgA semi-shady nook as a calm retreat.

LBJ4As we walk out the center, the areas around the parking lots are filled with more wildflowers.

LBJ3It’s easy to see why Lady Bird loved Central Texas and the wildflowers.

LBJnThe name Indian Paintbrushes always confuses me.  I guess they look like brushes dipped in paint, but so do other flowers.  Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is native to Texas and Oklahoma.

It also is a spring bloomer and grows among grasses and other plants.  Their roots invade the roots of other plants to obtain a portion of their needed nutrients.

This time of the year brings special joy to all who enjoy native plants and especially, flowers.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”  Robert Louis Stevenson