The Botanical Gardens and Native American Interpretive Center in Goldthwaite, Texas, is not the type of garden most people conjure up when they think of a botanical garden. It is a representation of the nature prairie that existed in the area at the time of the early native Comanches.
The gardens were the brain child of a non-Texan who moved to the area. It was years in the planning and fund raising stages.
Last fall was their grand opening with Laura Bush as their main speaker. The Center has affiliations with both the Smithsonian Museum and a group of Comanches in Oklahoma. Some of them attended the grand opening and performed dances.
This Visitor Center for the area was constructed by the Texas Highway Department. Additional funds were raised by a couple of other groups. The Highway Department architect worked with the Garden committee to design the building.
One big feature is the v shaped roof. Rainwater collects in the center and drains down the chain into an underground concrete cistern. Any watering of the gardens is from that cistern.
The gardens are entered through the building. The most impressive part of the garden to me was the advance planning. It was definitely done right.
Scattered throughout the gardens are informative signs about the Comanches.
Only native plants from the area were used. This is Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis Rivina humilis L.), which has scarlet fruit that birds love.
Designed to look like an ancient cooking berm, these rocks represent the rocks that wood fires were built on. When the rocks cracked from the heat, additional rocks were placed on top creating a raised area. Lots of shells are just below the ground in Mills County. The natives used those as tools while cooking.
They also constructed ovens from rocks.
Wild gourds and squashes that were inedible raw, were cooked and eaten. This shows what was in the center of the oven.
Native grains were ground with stones on flat rocks.
One of the disappointments in the gardens were the plant identification signs. They have faded and are barely legible. That probably surprised whoever choose them.
The architect and person who orchestrated the gardens was our guide. But I don’t remember the name he gave for this plant. Maybe Wooly Paperflower?
The wickiup design and construction show how the Indians were able to use the land but not leave a footprint.
They were basically just shelter from the sun and rain.
Buffalo Grass 609 is a low water usage ground cover. Its blades are soft, flop over, and don’t necessarily need to be mowed. This grass was only watered one time this summer.
A quick sun shelter.
Plains Blackfoot Daisy (Melampodium leucanthus) doesn’t need much water and in fact, will die with too much. They grow well in rocky or in sandy soils.
Water from the cistern flows into a small stream that wanders through the gardens. The site is actually small – a little larger than one fourth of a block. The excellent designed meandering trails circle through the gardens, making it feel larger.
Narrow-leafed Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata) blooms during the hot summer and into the fall. It was used to treat sore throat and rattlesnake bites.
Trees are strategically placed so that when they mature, they will block out the surrounding buildings and perhaps muffle the traffic noises.
Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana L.) has poisonous berries and roots, but the pink stems were eaten as greens. However, the berries were not poisonous to birds. The berry juice was used as a dye.
Can’t remember the name of this plant, but I like it.
Draping across the rock is Texas Frog Fruit (Lippia nodiflora). It can form thick mats in the yard and the long strands are easy to trip on.
The yellow flowers look like some kind of poppy or primrose.
The massive amounts of rocks brought into the site from the countryside are staggering. All of work was done by the guy who gave us the tour and his four workers. Wow.
Future plans include a three story museum building. Already enough artifacts have been donated to just about fill it up. Funds are being raised and grants sought. All this has been accomplished by a small town with less than 2,000 citizens and a county of just about 5,000 people. It truly is a grass roots project.
I guess the message is to dream big.
“Life always begins with one step outside of your comfort zone.”
Shannon L. Alder