Walk on the Wild Side

Boerne offers the beauty of central Texas, caves, and nature al natural.

Cibolo Nature Center offers many different experiences.  At the beginning of the trailhead that wanders through the wild areas is a stone replica of tracks of a giant reptile.

The Acrocanthosaurus lived in the Crtaceous Period about 100 million years ago.  The original tracks were removed for safe keeping and replaced with an exact replica.

The Texas Native Prairie Trail reminds people how important the tall grass prairies are to the central plains, and that they are an endangered ecosystem.

Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata) has popped up among the grasses.

Poverty Willow (Baccharis neglecta) sways in the wind.  Although it looks totally untouched, this prairie is actually managed with controlled burns and is used for research.

This looks like Common Wild Petunia (Ruellia nudiflora).  If that’s what it is, a couple of petals have sheared off of each flower.

Many types of grasses grow in this pocket prairie including big Bluestem, Indian grass, and Switch grass.
The Woodlands trail provides shade from large oaks.  This could be a Four O’Clock ( Mirabilis jalapa).
Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) is so named because a few degrees under freezing, the dead stems split at the base and exude a thin, curling shaving of ice.
The Cibolo Creek runs through the property and provides a Marshland trail.  As the shoes indicate, a young mother and her children crossed over to the marshland.  The crossing looked iffy for me with poor balance, so we skipped that part.  Plus, we were both overwhelmed by the heat and humidity.
This looks like Mealy Sage (Salvia farinacea) found growing in limestone soils.
Mexican Hat (Ratibida columnifera) is a bright flower that stands up tall on its stem (about 18 inches).  The tall dome is usually black/brown, but has already lost its seeds and now has a white top hat.
Closer to the Visitor Center is a small garden with hardy plants.  Rosemary has a few blooms left.
Blue Mistflowers (Conoclinium coelestinumare) are usually covered with butterflies.  These are smaller, probably because they don’t receive water, except from rain.
There are a couple of caves near Boerne.  We visited Cave Without a Name, which is on private property, but open to the public.  This picture shows the original entry that was discovered when a farm animal became stuck in it.
The cave is a U.S. National Natural Landmark.
Thankfully, it now has concrete stairs leading down into the cave.  A few Tricolored Bats
(Perimyotis  subflavus) inhabit the cave.  They are smaller than the more common Mexican Free Tails found in Texas and don’t live in colonies.
 
The cave went unnoticed until a couple of guys during prohibition thought it was a good spot to produce moonshine.
It was officially opened by the land owner in in 1939.  He held a state wide naming contest.  A young boy said that it was too beautiful to have a name and thus, won the $250 prize.
A constant temperature of 66 degrees makes it comfortable to visit.  Cavers have mapped out over 2.7 miles of caverns.
Six large rooms with many different formations are part of the guided tour.
The cave is subject to flooding when heavy rains occur.
An hour tour is the perfect length for most people.
If you’re looking for a get-away week-end and live in Texas, I recommend Boerne and its attractions.  The shopping is good and not nearly as crowded as some of the other Hill Country touristy towns.
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

Dry, Dusty Autumn

This crazy summer weather continues on and on.  Several early 1900’s high temperatures have been broken. The mornings start out pleasant but quickly rise to the high 90’s.

No rain in two months.  Dry land and vegetation makes a high fire risk.  The caliche dust on the county roads rises like a fine powder and hovers in the air for what seems like forever.  High dust clouds announce anyone traveling anywhere nearby.

drydusty2The grasses in the fields are all dead.  Broomweed or Broom Snakeweed (Amphiachyris amoenaseem) seems to be the only living vegetation and cows don’t eat it because it is poisonous.

drydustybWith hundreds of bushes massed in a pasture, its tiny yellow flowers and light green foliage form a lime green landscape.

drydusty3The ponds are almost dry.  This eerie moonscape look is created by dead, dry bleached plants and grasses sticking up from the bottom of the tank.

drydusty4Last summer when the ponds were totally dry, grasses and weeds grew up.  Then spring rains filled the ponds up.  Now they have dried again, leaving those dead plants and other crud stuck to them standing alone.

drydusty5Mighty strange looking.

drydusty7Another tank with scum floating on top of a small amount of water.

drydusty6Poverty Willow flowers shine a silvery white in the sunlight.

drydusty8Up close the wispy tufts look like small powder puffs.

drydusty9

drydustyaThis was dug as a spill over area from a tank.  This empties into a stream.  It seems unlikely that it would be needed.  But the spring rains did fill up the tank to overflowing.

drydustycNotice the stratum of this land cutaway. The top layer of soil is about 2 – 3 inches.  The white layer below that is caliche.  Under that is clay.  It’s a wonder that anything grows here.  But trees and some native shrubs do survive.

This explains why I used raised beds in the yard.

drydustyThis scraped plot was done by using a skid loader with a tilted bucket.  The purpose was to take away the weeds and loosen the top soil.  Then we scattered wildflower seeds.  It is in a pasture between the house and the barn.  So we should be able to enjoy the flowers.

Now we are praying for rain.  Autumn rains are needed for Texas wildflowers to succeed.  Actually, rain is desperately needed for everything.

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it’s stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Mark Twain