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

Foe or Friend?

Weeds appear in every gardening space.  At least, I know they pop up here regularly.  Some are unwelcome guests.  Others, not at all.  The good thing is that you get to choose who stays and who goes.

This plant came up in a pot.  A gift from a bird probably.  Since I didn’t recognize it, I decided to wait and see how it developed.

Clusters of green berries eventually turned red.

Those opened into tiny pretty flowers.  So I turned to a friend to identify the plant.  It’s Poke, Pokeweed or Poke Salad (Phytolacca americana).  Flowers and fruits are toxic.  The leaves can be eaten but must be processed properly.

A little research reveals that they grow quite large.  So at the end of the summer, this one will be pulled up.  It’s actually quite pretty at this stage, but I don’t want it taking over.

After a really good rain (praise and thanksgiving for that), these Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes atamasca) appeared in the fields and yard.  Also known as Zephyr or Fairy Lily, they are native to the U.S.  Cultivated species with white, yellow or pink flowers are available for purchase.

Delicate pure white flowers dot the landscape for a few days as a reminder of the blessings of rain.

The tall flower in the center is Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata).

Pretty flowers grow at the top of the stems.  When the stems are broken, white sticky sap oozes out.

Unless these appear in a large vacant area, it’s best to allow only a few to grow because they form large colonies as they reseed.  Those colonies are lovely to see out in the pastures.

These unknown plants also multiple quickly but are easy to pull up.  The stems are skeletal looking with thin leaves.  Could be a wild aster.

This is a weed that I actually planted because a friend gave me seeds she had gathered in a field.  The seed pods are almost to open now.  Clammy Weed (Polanisia dodecandra) is also known as Dwarf Cleome.

Clammy Weed multiplies aggressively; the wind scatters the seed all over the yard, so they come up here and there and not in a large clump.  It would be easy to eradicate them completely.

So what is the difference between a weed and a wildflower?  Mostly, it’s which ones strike your fancy.  Some might seem pretty and desirable and others bothersome because they have sharp thorns on them, push out other plants, or are just ugly.  They all are somewhat aggressive.  That’s the only way they can survive in the wild.

Sometimes it seems like I spend all my time getting rid of the ones that are very undesirable.  So I remind myself to just enjoy the pretty ones.

“All gardeners need to know when to accept something wonderful and unexpected, taking no credit except for letting it be.”  Allen Lacy

Misnamed

Names are funny things; from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom, they can be extremely strange.  Take the Duck-billed Platypus for instance.  When the British scientists first saw a pelt in the late 1700’s, they thought it was a hoax produced by a taxidermist.  Looking at a picture, the duck bill part seems pretty obvious.  But “platypus” is the Latin version of a Greek word that means broad, wide, flat foot.  Can you think of another name that is more descriptive?  What does this have to do with anything?  Nothing, I guess.  Just musing.

Some plants are misnamed, in my humble opinion.  I’ll explain with two examples.

misnamed Autumn Clematis starts blooming the first of August and is pretty much done before autumn even begins in our area.  It is not even the middle of September yet and most of the blooms have already dropped off.  This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago.

misnamed1The short time it does bloom, the vine is covered with snowy white small flowers.  I read recently that someone hated the smell of them.  It is strong but doesn’t seem unpleasant to me.  In fact, I think it’s an attribute.

Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) has naturalized in Texas to the point that it is sometimes called a wildflower.  But I’ve never seen it in the wild.

misnamed2Also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis, it is poisonous if eaten.

It needs to be pruned each winter or it becomes extremely thick.  I speak from experience and don’t look forward to cutting it back this winter since I did not do that chore last year.

misnamed6The patch of white growing in a low spot in the field is Snow on the Mountain (Euphorbia marginata).  It is a native that provides a freshness in the landscape during the last days of summer.  I guess the white does resemble snow on a tall stem, but still seems like a misnomer, at least in our sunny, hot area.

latesummer1Snow on the Mountain tends to grow in thick patches unless they have been removed with equipment.  Then it takes a few years to recover the colony.

latesummer5When seen from the road, it just looks like a mass of white.

latesummer8The stem is rather thick as well as the leaves.

latesummer3Up close, the intricate parts of the flowers look like tiny flowers on top of other flowers.

latesummerTwo totally different plants with white blooms to enjoy as we wait for autumn.  Will we have a true fall this year?  That is always uncertain here in the center of Texas.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Snow on the Mountain

There seem to be several plants known by this name.  But the one that we have on our property is Euphorbia marginata.   Snow on the Mountain is a strange name for a plant that grows here where there is seldom any snow.  Occasionally, we get an inch or two but mostly winter precipitation is in the form of sleet. which forms a sheet of ice on the ground and roads.  However, Snow on the Mountain is native in several areas of the US – from Minnesota to Texas.

It’s a striking beauty, especially considering the environment where it grows.  At least, here in Texas, it grows in rock and caliche with just a tiny bit of soil.

Snow on the Mountain does tend to live near a water source.  These are close to a creek which is dry now.

The creek runs through the willow trees, when there is water.

Snow on the Mountain starts blooming in the late summer and continues through the fall.  They spread by seed and multiply quickly.  At three to four feet tall and with their brightness, they stand out in the field.

From what I’ve read, some people have an allergic reaction to their milky white sap.  They are in the same family as Poinsettias, which I think are no longer considered poisonous.

They are especially pretty growing among other green plants or weeds.  I enjoy seeing them in the fields and beside the roads, but don’t plan to plant them in my yard because they are invasive.

“Nobody says you must laugh, but a sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the day.”    Ann Landers